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COLLECTED WISDOM™ on Automatic 401k Plan Features

This is an archive of information related to 401k automation features like automatic enrollment.

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What is Automatic Enrollment and How Does it Work?

Our company sponsors a 401k plan, but very few of our participants are contributing. We started the plan as an added benefit to help attract and retain employees, but we also truly want to encourage our employees to save for retirement. I've heard a lot about something called automatic enrollment and how it can be a great tool to get people to save, but I really don't know much more about it. What is automatic enrollment and how does it work?

Source: Dwc401k.com, September 2019

DOL Gives 401k Auto Portability Major Boost

The auto revolution in retirement plans (auto-enrollment, escalation, deferral) adds another option with the release last week of the DOL's final Prohibited Transaction Exemption for auto portability.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, August 2019

Cybersecurity Risk Management and 401k Auto Features

Cybersecurity risk management is no longer an issue plan sponsors can ignore. Auto-portability may be an answer to one of the 401k plan sponsors' cybersecurity risk management concerns. Yes, cybersecurity risk management solutions may be available via the 401k auto features that knowledgeable retirement plan advisors have been touting for the past 5 years. Surprisingly, the technology that makes 401k auto-portability possible may also enhance existing industry best practices that protect plan participants' personal data.

Source: 401ktv.com, May 2019

IRS Updates Information on Auto Enrollment

The IRS has updated the information available on its website concerning automatic enrollment. The site provides basic information regarding an employer's obligations if it decides to offer automatic enrollment and deferrals. It also discusses automatic contribution arrangements, eligible automatic contribution arrangements (EACAs) and qualified automatic contribution arrangements (QACAs). And it addresses the investment of employees' automatically deducted salary deferral contributions.

Source: Asppa.org, February 2019

IRS Asks for Comments Regarding 403b Plan Auto Enrollment

The request regards information collection for Revenue Ruling 2000-35, which describes certain criteria that must be met before an employee's compensation can be reduced and contributed to an employee's section 403b plan in the absence of an affirmative election by the employee.

Source: Planadviser.com, February 2019

Auto Drawdown on Way to Becoming New 401k Mainstay

Auto enrollment. Auto escalation. The two have worked hand in glove as 401k plan sponsors tried to entice participants to save for retirement. While the twin auto features are mainstays in 401(k) plans, the popular duo soon might be sharing the spotlight with a new rising star: the automatic drawdown.

Source: Pionline.com, January 2019

Five Ideas to Push 401k Auto Innovation Forward

Without a doubt, the defined contribution "auto-revolution" has had a major impact on the savings behavior and potential participant outcomes for many retirement savers. A new report details the impact of these plan design elements while offering "five forward-thinking suggestions for how plan sponsors can build upon their plan's existing automatic features and further enhance participant retirement readiness."

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, December 2018

Why Auto-Enrollment Matters for Plan Sponsors

Aside from employee benefit, companies have myriad incentives to give their employees automatic enrollment. Even companies that hold out may soon be legislated to provide it, so companies that implement it now will be ahead of the curve.

Source: Planpilot.com, October 2018

What Is Auto Enrollment?

"Auto-enrollment" is a plan design feature that takes advantage of the common human tendency towards inertia to help employees save for retirement and other purposes. In plans where auto enrollment is used, employees do not need to make an affirmative election to participate in an employee benefit plan. Instead, eligible employees are enrolled at a pre-established level of contributions and then allowed to "opt-out" of the default election.

Source: Boutwellfay.com, October 2018

Automatic Enrollment: An Increasingly Available Option With a Large Impact

Auto enrollment serves to overcome a worker's inaction, since many workers are stymied by the complex or overwhelming information retirement plans provide. The effect is dramatic: 92 percent of employees participated in auto enrollment plans, with only a small percentage opting out, while only 57% enrolled in voluntary plans.

Source: Forbes.com, September 2018

Automatic Transmission: Does Auto-Enrollment Create Leakage?

Most people view automatic enrollment in a 401k as a good thing, but apparently it has a heretofore unappreciated "dark side." At least that was the focus of a headline in a recent Wall Street Journal article that asked (and answered) the provocative question: "401k or ATM? Automated Retirement Savings Prove Easy to Pluck Prematurely."

Source: Asppa-net.org, August 2018

Automatic Enrollment Can Boost Retirement Plan Participation

Enrolling new employees automatically increases plan participation dramatically by eliminating the need for action by the worker. A new survey analysis demonstrates that employers and policymakers can encourage workers to save by using automatic enrollment. Survey respondents repeatedly indicated that regardless of whether they have access to an employer-sponsored plan, their perceived motivators and barriers, or the plan sponsor, they would remain in a retirement plan or program and begin saving for their future if automatically enrolled.

Source: Pewtrusts.org, August 2018

Automatic Features in Retirement Plans Boost Retirement Confidence

Although 25% of sponsors are not using automatic enrollment due to their fear of participant pushback, 82% of participants are either in favor of or neutral towards automatic enrollment. Among the participants who have been automatically enrolled, 95% are satisfied. Only 1% opted out, and 33% said that if they had not been automatically enrolled, they probably would not have enrolled in the plan. Among those who have been automatically escalated, 97% are satisfied.

Source: Plansponsor.com, August 2018

Retirement Plan Leakage Thwarts Automatic Enrollment

With benefits from kick starting retirement savings to fostering participant engagement, automatic enrollment has proven itself to be an important plan feature. Yet, this does not acquit it from including its own set of drawbacks. A TIAA study finds the feature's benefit are continuously offset by pre-retirement withdrawals and plan loans.

Source: Planadviser.com, August 2018

Making Sense of Auto-Enrollment Rules

While the IRS means well, when reviewing some of the regulations, one cannot help but wonder if someone was thinking, "How can I make this as difficult to understand as possible?" Such is the case with automatic enrollment.

Source: Cammackretirement.comg, August 2018

Potential vs. Realized Savings Under Automatic Enrollment

While automatic enrollment in employer retirement plans has been shown to vastly increase plan participation, many employees tend to withdraw some or all of their account balances before retirement – offsetting automatic enrollment’s positive effect. This study gauges how automatic enrollment influenced savings plan loans and withdrawals at a Fortune 500 financial services firm and how pre-retirement withdrawals affected employees’ retirement plan balances over time.

Source: Tiaainstitute.org, July 2018

Automatic Enrollment in Small-business Plans Is Working

Corroborating behavioral finance insights on saving habits, a survey by Vanguard of 8,900 small-business retirement plans found that those having automatic enrollment enjoyed an 83% participation rate, versus 58% for plans with voluntary enrollment. According to the survey, some 63% of employees at businesses that use Vanguard's small-business retirement plan service participated in their 401k plan, versus 61% in 2016.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), July 2018

Debt "Limits" -- Causation, Correlation or Coincidence?

The "crowding out" concern -- that automatic enrollment would stretch already strained financial resources, particularly among lower-income workers -- has long been a sticking point for those advocating caution regarding automatic enrollment.

Source: Asppa.org, June 2018

The Dirty Little Secret of Auto-Enrollment?

Generally, automatic enrollment has been a positive development for retirement plans, as it forces individuals who may not ordinarily save to do so at an important time - the commencement of their working careers. However, auto-enrollment is not a panacea. A new study reveals a potential "dirty little secret" of auto-enrollment; namely, that auto-enrollees incur more debt than non-auto-enrollees.

Source: Cammackretirement.com, May 2018

Automated Processes: Why This Plan Sponsors Moved From Manual

Why this 401k plan sponsor moved from manual. After her payroll/401k administrator resigned, the VP of operations of a 62 person company in the Richmond VA area attending a TPSU program was forced to take over. After suffering through the laborious manual processes, she quickly sought help to automate all processes. Watch the video about her experiences and how she plans to use this exercise to better engage senior management.

Source: 401ktv.com, May 2018

Advances in Auto-Services: Reenrollment

Despite progress, the first wave of 401k plan auto-services had one inherent flaw: They were only implemented on newly hired, or newly eligible, employees. From a benefits perspective, plan sponsors were still viewing retirement plan participation/enrollment as a point-in-time decision. Several new and more effective auto-services are being discussed by advisors and implemented by plan sponsors. Two of these new services can be used to help optimize employee savings and investment behavior periodically after the point of eligibility.

Source: Troweprice.com, April 2018

PSCA Study Shows Steady Increase in Automatic Features

Plans with an automatic enrollment feature nearly doubled over the past decade according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America's 60th Annual Survey of Profit Sharing and 401k Plans. PSCA found 59.7 percent of plans have an automatic enrollment feature in 2016 compared to 35.6 percent in 2007.

Source: Psca.org, March 2018

All Auto Everything, Shlomo Benartzi on 401ks in the Digital Age

The famed behavioral economist compares autoenrollment and escalation to autopilot, get the altitude and heading wrong and it's all gonna crash. What's just over the horizon for 401k saving nudges, and what dynamic will digital innovation play? Here's what advisors need to know.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, March 2018

Improving Participant Outcomes Through Re-Enrollment

A defined contribution plan "re-enrollment" has become a retirement plan industry best practice. This 8-page white paper addresses the most common preconceived notions around re-enrollment's and provides fiduciaries the context, data, and legal support to evolve toward an informed embrace of a re-enrollment's value.

Source: Qualifiedplanadvisors.com, February 2018

PSCA Finds Faster Start for Auto Enroll Programs

While the most common default deferral remains 3% of pay (used by 36.4% of plans), more than half of those with automatic enrollment now have a default deferral rate higher than 3%, according to a new survey.

Source: Asppa.org, February 2018

Auto Features May Hold The Key to Improving Plan Participation Rates

The Director of Administration of a 50 employee law firm discusses some of the challenges associated with mobilizing the entire workforce around the tax-qualified retirement plan.

Source: 401ktv.com, January 2018

401k Auto-Enrollment Doesn't Stop Workers From Taking on More Debt

The auto-enrollment trend has grown increasingly more commonplace in the workforce as companies look for ways to combat growing employee debt, particularly among younger generations (who typically own more student debt, but who also lack extensive financial literacy). But it's not exactly the silver bullet to solving the many complications plaguing retirement overall.

Source: Hrdive.com, January 2018

Major Problem Reported With 401k Auto Enrollment

The benefits of automatic enrollment in 401ks are all but a given, and a major reason Richard Thaler, a behavioral economist at the University of Chicago, won last year's Nobel Prize in economics. But now new research has arrived that could wreck it all.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, January 2018

Why Auto Portability Makes Everything Better

In the realm of retirement savings, auto portability is the public policy equivalent of bacon, great by itself, but even better when mixed with other retirement initiatives. In fact, for many public policy plans to be palatable, auto portability is an essential ingredient.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, January 2018

Auto-Enrollment: Elixir and Intoxicant

The belle of the retirement plan participation ball is auto enrollment. And a potent tool it is. But a recent article suggests it may not only be an elixir, it may also cause a delayed hangover.

Source: Asppa.org, November 2017

Why Automating Retirement Savings May Not Be Enough

Fueled by the popularity of nudging practices, the practice of enrolling employees automatically in retirement savings plans has become widespread in the United States over the past decade. The logic of an automatic retirement savings plan is compelling. However, a majority of people enrolled in automatic retirement savings plans are not saving enough.

Source: Psychologytoday.com, November 2017

Plan Sponsors' Use of Best Practices Continues to Climb

Plan sponsors continue to embrace best practices when it comes to running their retirement plan. Automatic enrollment, higher initial deferral rates, and financial counseling are just a few that more employers are adopting.

Source: Planadviser.com, October 2017

The Positive Impact of Automatic Features

Automatic plan features offer numerous benefits. These positive impacts occur amidst a backdrop that surprises many employers: employees favor automatic features and appreciate an employer that utilizes them. This 7-page white paper will help employers to strengthen their commitment through a thoughtful and informed automatic enrollment and escalation structure.

Source: Qualifiedplanadvisors.com, August 2017

401k Plan Automatic Enrollment: A Winning Formula

Although the number is slowly shrinking, many 401k plan sponsors remain reluctant to institute auto-enrollment and auto-deferral increase features. However, the fact is inescapable: Plans with these features generally have higher participation rates and account balances.

Source: Lindquistcpa.com, June 2017

The Tools Your Retirement Plan May Be Missing: Auto-Enrollment & Auto-Escalation

Are you a plan sponsor reviewing your plan and wondering to yourself, "Why is my plan not performing competitively against others," or even more so, "How do I increase employee participation in my retirement plan?" The answer could be, as we will outline in this post, something as simple as adding auto features to your plan design.

Source: Pension-Consultants.com, June 2017

Auto Features: Inertia Beaters, but May Generate Exhaust

Automatic features can help overcome saving gridlock, but they are not necessarily a panacea and can have consequences of their own.

Source: Asppa.org, June 2017

Recalibrating Your Defined Contribution Plan

Plan sponsors are eager to improve participants' retirement outcomes. Reenrollment is a powerful way to steer employees into effective investment options. However, some plan sponsors have balked at the idea.

Source: Abglobal.com, June 2017

Automatic Savings Plans Drive Better Investment Returns

In the U.S., TDFs have consistently had positive gaps because U.S. investors contribute to their 401k savings with every paycheck, and TDFs reduce bad market timing decisions.

Source: Plansponsor.com, June 2017

Millennials Support Automatic Retirement Plans, Seek Sponsor Help

The youngest employees and DC plan participants often want more automated features to their plans, and most assign their plan sponsors some responsibility for helping them choose the right investments to fund their retirement while it's still decades away.

Source: Blr.com, April 2017

Adding Automatic Features to Your 401k Retirement Plan

This article looks more closely at features such as automatic enrollment and automatic increases or escalation, and hopefully will help you determine whether they are right for your plan.

Source: Belr.com, February 2017

Three Ways to Get an Automatic Enrollment Plan Out of Its Rut

Inertia is a powerful force in nature, and in human behavior. Even the most proactive and engaged plan designs (and plan designers) can, over time, slide from being in a groove to being in a rut. Here are three ways to reinvigorate automatic plan designs.

Source: Asppa.org, February 2017

The Next Step for 401k Innovation: Auto-Portability

A new "auto" aims to drive retirement savings higher. It's called auto-portability, and it would enable a separating employee to easily roll assets into a new employer's plan. While the notion has been percolating for some time, a growing body of research is highlighting the benefits of consolidating employee assets so they can better grow their retirement nest eggs.

Source: Institutionalinvestor.com, January 2017

Auto-Enrollment Pushes Retirement Plans Higher

Plan assets for 401k plans and similar types of defined contribution plans have topped $7 trillion due to continued growth in employee contributions. Part of this increase is not due to employees consciously saving more; it is due to the continued growth of both auto-enrollment and auto-escalation features in a growing number of retirements plans.

Source: Schneiderdowns.com, January 2017

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