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COLLECTED WISDOM™ on 401k Automatic Enrollment of Employees and Other Automatic Plan Features

This is an archive of information related to automatic enrollment.

Automatic enrollment allows an employer to automatically deduct elective deferrals from an employee's wages unless the employee makes an election not to contribute or to contribute a different amount. Any 401k plan that allows elective salary deferrals can have this feature.

This archive contains not only the most current material on the topic, but also older items that are still relevant, provide background, perspective or are germane to the topic.

If you find a broken link or an items that you feel is outdate, irrelevant or no longer appropriate, please let us know.

Enhance Investment Behaviors and Outcomes With Re-Enrollment

Abstract: It's become clear that two employee segments have been significantly left out of the impact of auto-features in DC plans, affecting their chance for retirement savings success. Providing access to all employees to engage in the plan, through re-enrollment, can have a significant impact on the success of the plan's objectives.

Source: Pionline.com, May 2016

White Paper Released on Auto Enrollment in 401k and 403(b) Plans

Abstract: Paragon Alliance Group has developed a new white paper that is designed to provide insight into the pros and cons of auto enrollment, and why it may or may not be suitable for all plan sponsors.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, March 2016

DC Plan Re-Enrollment: A Fiduciary Imperative?

Abstract: This paper looks at the role a re-enrollment campaign can play in guiding all plan participants to an appropriate asset allocation, common reasons cited by plan sponsors for avoiding re-enrollment, and counterpoints to each, key elements of a successful implementation, and re-enrollment terminology.

Source: Russell.com, March 2016

Reshaping Participant Outcomes Through Reenrollment

Abstract: Reenrollment into a low-cost qualified default investment alternative, such as a low-cost target-date series, can rapidly improve diversification and reduce fees for participants -- potentially leading to higher retirement wealth accumulations in the future.

Source: Vanguard.com, March 2016

Automatic Features in Defined Contribution Plans

Abstract: Automatic enrollment, offered in conjunction with automatic escalation, can positively impact participant behavior and improve retirement readiness. This article examines some best practices to be considered when implementing automatic features in defined contribution plans that can produce greater results per dollar of employer cost.

Source: Strategicbenefitservices.com, February 2016

Auto Escalation Beats Inertia, So Why the Hesitancy?

Abstract: While 62 percent of employers with large plans (over $200 million in assets) automatically enroll new employees into their plan, far fewer (48 percent) have adopted automatic escalation. Article reviews so of the reasons employers give for not offering automatic escalation.

Source: Shrm.org, February 2016

'Back-Sweeping' to Boost 401k Participation

Abstract: Aon Hewitt study finds a growing number of companies auto-enrolling, or "back-sweeping," all existing employees who aren't already participating in 401k plans. This practice can certainly have advantages if properly communicated to affected workers, experts say.

Source: Hreonline.com, December 2015

Re-Enrollment: An Easy Button for DC Plans

Abstract: Close your eyes and imagine that there was a button plan sponsors could press that would turn participant inertia into an asset, and help improve sub-optimal asset allocations while simultaneously putting the plan sponsor on more solid fiduciary footing. Luckily there is, it's called re-enrollment.

Source: Manning-Napier.com, December 2015

Understanding Re-Enrollment

Abstract: A plan re-enrollment is a process by which participants are notified that their existing assets and future contributions will be invested in the plan's qualified default investment alternative, unless they make a new investment election during a specified time period. This paper explains the concept of re-enrollment and outlines potential benefits to participants and plan sponsors.

Source: Jpmorganfunds.com, December 2015

The Power of Re-enrollment

Abstract: How can plan sponsors help participants make the most of the sponsor's 401k plan? Re-enrollment is one strategies that takes advantage of inertia -- the same behavior that challenges plan sponsors and participants alike.

Source: Ssga.com, November 2015

The Auto Savings Generation: Steering Millennials to Better Retirement Outcomes

Abstract: Automatic enrollment and the rise of target-date funds are reshaping retirement plan outcomes for all generations. However, these innovations are having the greatest impact on millennials' retirement savings. This 16-page paper highlights some of the generational differences as a result of these changes.

Source: Vanguard.com, October 2015

Automatic Savings Increase Tool Enhances 401k Plan

Abstract: This article discusses how one organization's 401k plan achieved higher employee participation as well as greater savings rates two years after adding automatic contribution increases.

Source: Retirementtownhall.com, September 2015

Automatic Plan Features: Responses to Selected Webcast Q&A

Abstract: DCIIA's Retirement Research Board conducted a webcast to share the results of a research study on plan sponsor attitudes and behaviors regarding automatic plan features. As a supplement to the presentation material used for the discussion, the speakers have answered select questions submitted by the conference call attendees.

Source: Dciia.org, September 2015

Leading the Horses to Water: 401k Plan Re-enrollment and "Backsweeps"

Abstract: While perfect solutions to these problems have yet to be developed, one approach on the savings and investment front that has gained traction in the last ten years is the "lead the horses to water" approach. That is, automatically enrolling employees in a defined contribution plan and then defaulting those who do not otherwise make an affirmative investment election into an appropriate investment fund, subject to opt-out.

Source: Morganlewis.com, September 2015

Another EPCRS Update: Automatic Enrollment

Abstract: Revenue Procedure 2015-27 made several updates to the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System, or EPCRS, found in Revenue Procedure 2013-12. This article examines the auto-enrollment changes to EPCRS to determine their impact on 403(b)/457(b) plan sponsors.

Source: Cammackretirement.com, September 2015

Using Re-enrollment to Improve Asset Allocation

Abstract: Case study on how one group of advisors worked with a plan sponsor to chart a new course for employees, utilizing re-enrollment and automatic features.

Source: Jpmorganfunds.com, August 2015

When Onboarding New Participants, Keep It Simple

Abstract: Plan advisers should be wary of potential complications when designing their automatic features. Most retirement plan advisers are looking at what makes the biggest impact in getting people in the plan and new ways to get younger employees engaged with the retirement plan -- and keep them there.

Source: Planadviser.com, August 2015

Automatic Enrollment: Only Part of an Overall Strategy

Abstract: Automatic enrollment is here to stay. It is increasingly popular and sooner or later, it may become the norm in most 401k plans. Regardless of the goals you hope to accomplish, it is important to understand that it often will not achieve the desired result on its own. However, as part of an overall strategy, automatic enrollment can be an effective springboard to improve plan operations and create a culture of savings among employees.

Source: Markleyactuarial.com, July 2015

403(b) Automatic Enrollment Best Practices Guide

Abstract: This new resource offers best practices for 403(b) non-ERISA plans is a comprehensive resource prepared by NTSA. It provides information relevant to all stages of providing auto enrollment of 403(b) participants including what an employer should consider before adopting an auto enrollment plan.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, July 2015

Relationship Between Automatic Enrollment and DC Plan Contributions: Evidence From a National Survey

Abstract: This paper reexamines the determinants of 401k participation and contributions in the presence of automatic enrollment using nationally representative data from the Health and Retirement Study for 2006 through 2012. The results confirm previous findings that automatic enrollment is associated with a higher proportion of workers included in DC plans; however, automatically enrolled workers are less likely to contribute to their DC plans than voluntarily enrolled workers.

Source: Bc.edu, July 2015

Plan Sponsor Survey: Focus on Automatic Plan Features

Abstract: DCIIA recently completed its third biennial survey of DC plan sponsors' use of automatic plan features such as automatic enrollment, automatic contribution escalation and plan reenrollment. This survey of over 450 plan sponsors, ranging from sponsors of the largest plans (over $1 billion) to the smallest (under $5 million), found that the adoption of auto features is having its intended effect: more participants are saving for retirement, and saving at increasingly higher and more meaningful rates.

Source: Dciia.org, June 2015

Another Reason for Auto-Features in DC plans: Cognitive Decline

Abstract: As with many of the other behavioral challenges in DC plan design, part of the answer may lie in auto-features. For example, to the extent that the key financial decisions -- investment strategy and drawdown decisions -- can be specified in advance, the impact of any cognitive decline may be reduced.

Source: Russell.com, May 2015

Mindless Pitfalls: Don't Leave 401k Automatic Enrollment Plans Alone

Abstract: The biggest advantage (and disadvantage) of automatic enrollment is that employees don't have to do anything. It's the essence of automatic enrollment. But it also makes people less responsible for their own retirement decisions. Punam Anand Keller, PhD, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth discusses barriers to automatic enrollment plans and the solutions to overcome them.

Source: Invesco.com, March 2015

Auto Enrollment - Unforeseen Admin Costs Attributable to Small Account Balances

Abstract: An experience many plan sponsors encounter following the rollout of a 401k auto enrollment campaign is an increase in the number of non-participating individuals with relatively small account balances. These small accounts can significantly impact the costs of plan administration. With sufficient planning, auto enroll can be implemented without drastically altering costs, but what can be done when it's too late and the growth of small account balances begin costing you money?

Source: 5500audit.com, March 2015

The Effects of Automatic Enrollment - A Comprehensive View

Abstract: Automatic enrollment is an optional plan feature in which participants are enrolled into their employer's plan as soon as they are eligible, with the option to opt out. Various studies have shown that automatic enrollment increases plan participation dramatically with very few participants choosing to opt out, but its effect on the plan overall is often overlooked.

Source: Ekonbenefits.com, March 2015

Most Employers Auto-Enroll 401k Participants

Abstract: Most employers now offer automatic features in their 401k plans to ensure that workers are saving enough to receive full company matching contributions over time, according to a survey by the benefits consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

Source: Businessmanagementdaily.com, March 2015

Researchers Find Little Cost Difference From Auto-Enrollment

Abstract: Automatic enrollment is often expected to increase employer compensation costs as previously unenrolled workers start to receive matching retirement plan contributions, but researchers have found this not to be true.

Source: Planadviser.com, March 2015

Companies Are Improving Automatic Features in 401k Plans

Abstract: To improve the long-term financial outlook for workers, a new survey from Aon Hewitt, reveals that the majority of companies now offer automatic features in their 401k plans to ensure that workers are saving enough to receive full company matching contributions over time.

Source: Wolterskluwerlb.com, February 2015

Getting Auto-Enrollment Implementation Right

Abstract: Implementing automatic enrollment without thinking through plan design can result in compliance and administrative issues. Plan failures due to automatic enrollment, either breaking the law or operational failures, happen. So plan sponsors should put language in their plan document that is easy to follow and not burdensome to live with.

Source: Plansponsor.com, February 2015

Automatic Enrollment, Employer Match Rates and Employee Compensation in 401k Plans

Abstract: This study examines the relationship between automatic enrollment and employee compensation. A significant negative correlation exists between the generosity of the employer match structure and the automatic enrollment provision. However, study finds no evidence that total compensation costs or DC costs differ between firms with and without automatic enrollment, and no evidence that DC costs crowd out other forms of compensation.

Source: Ssrn.com, February 2015

401k Automatic Enrollment - Things to Consider

Abstract: At first glance, adding an auto enrollment feature to your Company's 401k Plan appears to be a simple way to increase Plan participation. In practice, there can be some unintended consequences in implementing auto enrollment. This article covers some potential hurdles and adjustments you may want to consider to get the desired effects.

Source: 5500audit.com, February 2015

401k Automation May Have Peaked

Abstract: Automation is a hot topic in defined-contribution plans, but while there has been a steady increase in the adoption of features such as automatic re-enrollment and other automatic plan features, they still haven't reached ubiquity and might never get there. That is one conclusion that can be found in the Callan Investment Institute's "2015 Defined Contribution Trends" study.

Source: Benefitspro.com, January 2015

Automatic Enrollment: The Power of the Default

Abstract: Sponsors can use the inertia inherent in participant retirement savings decisions to improve retirement outcomes in defined contribution plans. This 16 page report provides updated statistics drawn from Vanguard recordkeeping data of the effects of automatic enrollment on participants' saving and investing behaviors.

Source: Vanguard.com, January 2015

Auto Features Gain Ground With 401k Plan Sponsors

Abstract: Employers are taking a more engaging and firm approach to making sure employees take retirement saving seriously, making use of automatic enrollment and escalation, as well as personalized tools. And both employers and retirement plan providers are noting changes in the savings attitudes of employees.

Source: Benefitnews.com, December 2014

Automatic Features in Defined Contribution Plans

Abstract: Offered in conjunction with automatic escalation, automatic enrollment can positively impact participant behavior and improve retirement readiness. This article examines some best practices to be considered when implementing automatic features in DC plans that can produce greater results per dollar of employer cost.

Source: Strategicbenefitservices.com, September 2014

Pushing the Employee-Savings Envelope With Auto-Escalation

Abstract: While the concept of automatically escalating 401k paycheck deductions annually may sound unappetizing to some HR leaders because of the added costs they can incur, the results of a recent survey indicate employees may be ready to dig in.

Source: Hreonline.com, August 2014

Can the Enrollment Experience Improve Participant Outcomes?

Abstract: Although automatic enrollment has been a boon for plan participation and encourages steady savings habits, more needs to be done. Automatic enrollment may not be a universal answer. Fidelity embarked on extensive employee research and testing to determine if a simplified, streamlined enrollment process could improve participation outcomes. This 12 page paper reviews the results.

Source: Fidelity.com, August 2014

Execs Struggle With 401k Auto-Escalation Issue

Abstract: DC plan executives are wrestling with ways to improve participants' savings through automatic escalation. The struggle is between two philosophies: the opt-in approach, which requires participants to make a commitment to automatically raise their savings rate annually; and the opt-out approach, which includes participants in auto escalation unless they tell plan administrators to remove them from the program.

Source: Pionline.com, July 2014

Understanding Re-Enrollment Benefits for Participants and Plan Sponsors

Abstract: Despite participant education efforts and the availability of simplified investment decision-making options, there is a general lack of confidence that participants are appropriately diversified within their 401k plans. Conducting a re-enrollment not only helps get participants into a diversified portfolio, but also helps to ensure their asset allocation changes with them over time.

Source: Jpmorganfunds.com, July 2014

Using Re-enrollment to Improve Participant Investing and Provide Fiduciary Protections

Abstract: There is tension in the world of 401k plans. Participants fret over the investment decisions they must make. Their employers worry about fiduciary liability for how the participants' accounts are invested. Fortunately, there is a straightforward strategy for dealing with this tension -- a strategy that dramatically improves the quality of participant investing while providing enhanced protections to the plan sponsors and committee members who manage those plans. This strategy is known as "re-enrollment."

Source: Jpmorganfunds.com, July 2014

401k's With 'Automatic' Steering Drive Savings Success

Abstract: Prior to auto-features, workers had to make a lot of choices, such as enrollment, level of participation and investments. Decades of research on participant behavior in 401k plans showed that many participants don't like making these choices. Many workers chose not to participate over being faced with the myriad choices, even when employers promised matching contributions. But most people want to do the right thing, and auto-solutions help them do that.

Source: Workforce.com, July 2014

401k Plan Auto Enrollment Paying Off, Vanguard

Abstract: Among 401k plans automatically enrolling employees, 69% now also automatically increase their contribution rate annually and invest their assets in a balanced investment option, setting up a growing number of employees -- especially low-income, young, and minority workers -- for healthier retirement savings, Vanguard researchers said.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, June 2014

Auto Enrollment Errors Are Expensive

Abstract: Auto enrollment is becoming more popular with employers that sponsor DC plans. This feature can help increase plan participation, enhance retirement outcomes among participants, and improve discrimination testing results. On the other hand, administrative oversights can prove costly. This article identifies two common errors administrators commit related to auto enrollment.

Source: Retirementtownhall.com, May 2014

Seven Misconceptions About Retirement Plan Auto Features

Abstract: The evidence is clear that automatic enrollment, in which employees are enrolled in their company plan unless they opt out, is very effective at increasing participation rates. In spite of how effective auto features are, many sponsors are still holding back from adopting them due to misconceptions. Here are seven common misconceptions plan sponsors have.

Source: Pension-Consultants.com, May 2014

BMO White Paper on Automatic Features

Abstract: White paper examines the use of automatic features within a defined contribution plan. It notes that it is widely known that features such as auto-enrollment and auto-escalation typically increase employee participation, and are therefore likely to improve retirement readiness. In contrast, plan sponsors have not traditionally received guidance on how to implement these features effectively. The paper identifies the key questions that need to be addressed.

Source: Bmo.com, April 2014

Implementing Automatic Features in DC Plans -- Frequently Asked Questions

Abstract: This Frequently Asked Questions resource is the third in a series on best practices in implementing automatic features in DC plans and seeks to provide clarification on common regulatory questions that plan sponsors and their advisors may have when putting auto features into practice. These FAQ's were developed by the Public Policy Committee of DCIIA and the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

Source: Dciia.org, April 2014

Let the Questions Begin: Preparing for DC Plan Automation

Abstract: Defined contribution plan changes can bring forth more questions than a typical 4-year-old asks -- lots of why's, what's and how's. When you've decided to tackle automation, be it auto enroll, auto escalation or even default investments, it's helpful to get prepared before you call the consultants, lawyers, and your service providers.

Source: Dciia.org, April 2014

Auto-Solutions Can More Than Double Retirement Savings

Abstract: While some in the retirement industry say that auto-features are too expensive for many plan sponsors to consider, especially in a tough job market, New York Life has found a great reception for auto-solutions among its plan sponsor clients. Seventy percent of New York Life RPS' clients auto-enroll and of that number, half auto-enroll into managed savings. This infographic shows the value of 401k plan auto-features.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, February 2014

Sample Opt-Out Form: Automatic 403(b) Plans

Abstract: If your vendor does not have a process in place for handling automatic enrollment opt-outs, you can provide this form to employees eligible for automatic enrollment.

Source: Retirementmadesimpler.org, January 2014

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