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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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Automatic Enrollment Is Mandatory in 2025: Now Is the Time to Prepare

SECURE 2.0 implemented almost 100 different changes to the retirement plan landscape. This article is focused on one of the most impactful of such changes which is scheduled to first become effective in 2025. This change is the requirement that most plan sponsors adopt automatic enrollment provisions for their 401k and 403b plans.

Source: Legacyrsllc.com, July 2024

Automatic, Not Autopilot: Managing 401k Plans in the Auto-Enrollment Era

Auto-enroll features have been a net good for participants who need to save for retirement and build long-term wealth. However, plan sponsors should still be aware of potential issues that can arise as 401k plan participation becomes more automated. These issues occur primarily when plan participants are not fully engaged with the plan because they don't need to take action to participate. The good news is that it is well within the plan sponsor's power to minimize these issues.

Source: Shrm.org, June 2024

The Positive Impact of 401k Automated Features Explained

The positive auto-feature impact (enrollment, deferral, escalation) is by now widely known, even resulting in a Nobel Prize. Yet, a new study from Principal puts specific numbers to the results, reinforcing the link between "nudges" and the successful outcomes they produce.

Source: Napa-net.org, June 2024

Expanding Retirement Plan Automation

The retirement industry has seen the power of automated workplace retirement saving and auto-escalation of deferral rates. But how else might automation be used as a reasonable tool to help workers save more? Plan sponsors and providers at the Employee Benefits Research Institute' 2024 Spring Policy Forum discussed how pension-linked emergency savings accounts, as well as other tax-advantaged savings vehicles, can help underserved communities save for retirement.

Source: Planadviser.com, May 2024

Automatic Enrollment: This Is The Way

Thanks to SECURE Act 2.0, newly established 401k and 403b plans must now have automatic enrollment. Plans with an automatic enrollment feature immediately enroll employees in the employer-sponsored plan once employees satisfy eligibility requirements. 401k and 403b plans established after December 29, 2022, must have the automatic enrollment feature.

Source: Benefitslawadvisor.com, March 2024

Auto-Accounts: The Next 'Nudge' From Shlomo Benartzi

In a new op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi, known for his research on retirement savings, says his idea of an auto-pilot for 401k plans that makes it easy to save, but avoids concerns about excessive paternalism from employers, would work for three reasons: because it's a mental reminder that 1) you should save; 2) you haven't started saving yet; and 3) the paperwork has been done for you.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, February 2024

Detailing the DOL's Auto-Portability Proposal

Service providers would be permitted to charge a reasonable fee to transfer the assets of individual retirement account holders to a new employer-sponsored plan under a proposal published by the Department of Labor. This article delves into the details of the proposed rule, which will be up for a 60-day public comment period once filed in the Federal Register.

Source: Planadviser.com, January 2024

SECURE 2.0's Auto Enrollment, Savers Match Will Bring Most Positive Impact

Preliminary research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute says that the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 will bring modest benefits for those approaching retirement but will have a larger impact on younger workers. The report also found that the automatic enrollment and saver's match provisions will have the largest positive effect on retirement security nationally.

Source: Planadviser.com, January 2024

SECURE 2.0 Guidance - Auto Enrollment, SIMPLE, and Roth Provisions

On December 20, 2023, the IRS gave us a nice holiday present with the release of guidance on several provisions of the SECURE 2.0 Act. This article deals with the provisions that the author believe are of the highest interest to plan sponsors, advisors, and CPAs. The article provides a summary of the guidance for auto-enrollment, SIMPLE, and Roth provisions.

Source: Consultrms.com, January 2024

IRS SECURE 2.0 Act Guidance Addresses Auto-Enrollment

Under SECURE 2.0, effective on and after January 1, 2025, automatic enrollment is required for most (but not all) new 401k plans that were "established" after December 29, 2022. Automatic enrollment arrangements, of which there are several varieties, generally automatically enroll new eligible employees in the company's 401k plan unless the employees affirmatively opt out of participation.

Source: Compliancedashboard.net, January 2024

Will 401k Auto-Portability Become a Cure-All or a Fiduciary Headache?

The turn of the calendar brings many things, and the turn of a new year brings more. Effective January 1, 2024, plan sponsors will find there's a new twist on an old familiar thing. It's called "auto-portability." Some believe it's destined to become a cure-all for much of what ails retirement savings today. Others, well, they're not so sure.

Source: Fiduciarynews.com, January 2024

Mandatory Auto-Enrollment is Coming for Some Plans: What to Know

Studies show that auto-enrollment increases plan participation, and soon it will not be optional for some plans. Among the many changes enacted in SECURE 2.0 is a requirement that new 401k and 403b plans have auto-enrollment and auto-escalation beginning in 2025. As with most of the SECURE 2.0 changes, there were many questions about how the rules would work in practice. Part of the "grab bag" guidance issued in recent Notice 2024-02 fills in some of the blanks but also leaves important questions unanswered.

Source: Cohenbuckmann.com, January 2024

How SECURE 2.0's Automatic Features Apply to MEPs, PEPs

Multiple employer plans and pooled employer plans are subject to the same automatic enrollment and escalation requirements as other defined contribution plans, as outlined by SECURE 2.0. Any such plan adopted after December 29, 2022, must automatically enroll participants between 3% and 10% unless the participant elects otherwise, starting in 2025. Plans adopted before December 29, 2022, are grandfathered in.

Source: Planadviser.com, January 2024

Why SECURE 2.0 Act Auto Enrollment and Escalation Will Boost Financial Wellbeing

The SECURE Act 2.0 contains dozens of changes to retirement plans, but perhaps none bigger than these two: New 401k and 403b plans will be required to automatically enroll participants in the respective plans, and employee salary deferral rates will automatically escalate each year. Here's what you need to know.

Source: Hubinternational.com, December 2023

"Auto-Reenroll Act of 2023" Introduced in Senate

A new bill introduced in the Senate Wednesday would permit 401k plan sponsors to automatically reenroll non-participants at least once every three years unless the individual affirmatively opts out again.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, July 2023

Retirement Saving at New High Thanks to Automatic Enrollment

Automatic enrollment in 401k plans is helping Americans save for retirement in record numbers. According to a Vanguard survey, participation rates in 401k plans for which the asset management firm serves as recordkeeper have reached an all-time high of 83%. Vanguard's report also revealed that employers are increasingly bolstering retirement plans with personalized financial services such as advice.

Source: Investmentnews.com, June 2023

Auto-Enrollment a Plus But Not a Panacea, Says Study

Auto-enrollment can dramatically increase participation in a retirement plan. However, the degree to which it is beneficial varies depending on which party one considers, says a recent study.

Source: Asppa.org, June 2023

Auto-enrollment is Highly Effective But Often More Costly

For years, auto-enrollment has been considered the gold standard by employers and retirement experts, and its popularity has grown since federal legislation in 2006 removed some of the legal barriers that kept employers from trying it. Given how effective auto-enrollment is, however, a study on Army personnel provided new information that may explain why more companies have not adopted it: cost.

Source: Bc.edu, June 2023

Six Reasons to Offer Automatic Enrollment in Your 401k Plan

Automatic enrollment is an effective method of encouraging employees to save. This is a strategy worth considering for a variety of reasons. Not only does it motivate employees to save for retirement, but it also is advantageous to your business. Here are six reasons why offering automatic enrollment is advantageous.

Source: Myubiquity.com, June 2023

Auto-Escalation Not Likely to Reduce Participation

While there's much debate over the pros and cons of auto-features and whether participants need a nudge, the results of a new study suggest that plan sponsors can boost "default escalators" in 401k plans without decreasing participation. The results are based on a new field study conducted through the Voya Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation.

Source: Napa-net.org, May 2023

How Auto Enrollment Closes the Retirement Savings Gap for Communities of Color

New research put stark numbers to the retirement savings coverage gap for communities of color. Voya Financial uncovered striking differences in overall workplace retirement plan participation, savings rates, and average account balances for underserved employee communities. For instance, Black and Latino employee participation rates were just 53% and 45%, respectively, compared to 66% for White employees and 62% for Asian employees. Yet the analysis also found that employers who implement inclusion best practices within their workplace retirement plan can see positive savings results on underserved employee populations.

Source: Napa-net.org, April 2023

Automatic Enrollment Adoption Grew to 85% in 2022: T. Rowe Price

Automatic solutions adoption continued to rise in 2022, finds a new report by T. Rowe Price. The firm's annual Reference Point, a benchmarking report analyzing data on 401k plan design and participant behavior, found that plan adoption of automatic enrollment rose to 85% in 2022.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, April 2023

SECURE 2.0: Mandatory Automatic Enrollment Coupled With Corrective Contribution Relief

When it comes to choosing to save for retirement, people tend to be short-sighted. Many eligible employees don't choose to participate in their employer-sponsored retirement plans. Behavioral finance studies show that people tend to imagine themselves making the right choices in the future, not today. Procrastination. Inertia.

Source: Belfint.com, April 2023

All You Wanted to Know About 401k Automatic Enrollment

Automatic Enrollment is one of the most successful features added to a 401k plan in the last 20 years, but even today, it's not a perfect fit for every 401k plan sponsor. Understanding what it is and the history behind it, might give you an idea of it's the right choice for you as a 401k plan sponsor.

Source: Jdsupra.com, March 2023

Automatic Enrollment is Coming for Your Retirement Plan...Sorta

This new SECURE 2.0 contains many new provisions, including changes, again, to RMDS, but also includes changes that had long been discussed but never occurred. One such change is the requirement that 401k and 403b plans feature automatic enrollment for employees of companies that sponsor such plans. While this new requirement may scare plan sponsors, there are quite a few exceptions that effectively make the automatic enrollment feature only apply to new plans of larger entities.

Source: Graydon.law, January 2023

The SECURE Act 2.0: The Most Impactful Provisions - Automatic Plans

The SECURE Act 2.0 has over 90 provisions, some major and some minor. One of the most impactful provisions is the new requirement to automatically enroll and automatically increase deferrals to new 401k and 403b plans.

Source: Fredreish.com, January 2023

Participants Admit Auto-Enrollment Kickstarts the Retirement Savings Journey

As more employees ask for retirement planning vehicles in their employer-sponsored plans, a Principal study finds automatic features help participants achieve their largest share of retirement income. The latest research from Principal shows that over half (51%) of 725 respondents attributed auto-enrollment to kickstarting their retirement savings journey, and 81% said it helped them begin saving even sooner.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, November 2022

Auto-Portability: A Guide for Retirement Plan Sponsors

This Q&A is geared toward plan sponsors who are curious about the auto-portability process and how it might prove beneficial to their plan participants. Auto-portability can prove especially useful in industries with lower wages and high employee turnover, which may include retail, transportation, hospitality, and restaurants because this can often lead to numerous account balances of $5,000 or less being involuntarily rolled to default IRAs.

Source: Eforerisa.com, October 2022

Are Automatic 401k Features Friend or Foe?

Every time it seems there's nothing new to say about auto features, new questions arise. Most of them spring from fallacies that continue to be perpetuated throughout the 401k industry. This article digs into many of the misunderstandings and why they each may be inaccurate.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, August 2022

Mega DC Plans Nudge Workers to Increase Savings

The 50 largest defined contribution plan sponsors custodied by Northern Trust Asset Management have focused on getting workers to boost their retirement savings with automatic features, according to data from the firm. Plan sponsors are using auto-escalation to boost savings, but they are not focused on retirement income or decumulation options for plan participants.

Source: Plansponsor.com, July 2022

Autoenrollment a Boon, Research Confirms

Proponents of automatic features for DC plans have long argued that they boost participation and savings rates, and a recent study confirms that belief. "Automatic enrollment in employer-sponsored 401k savings plans has transformed the way that millions of Americans save for retirement," said Joshua Dietch, Head of T. Rowe Price Retirement Thought Leadership, and Taha Choukhmane, Ph.D., MIT Sloan School of Management Associate Professor of Finance in their report.

Source: Napa-net.org, July 2022

Automatic Enrollment's Long-Term Effect on Retirement Saving

This paper finds that 401k savings plans are increasingly offering automatic enrollment coupled with higher employee default deferral rates. Automatic enrollment almost doubles plan participation and successfully gets participants who might not have otherwise saved, saving. Automatic enrollment combined with automatic escalation creates better participation and savings outcomes.

Source: Troweprice.com, June 2022

401k Auto-Enrollment Proves Popular

Legislation moving through Congress would prompt more employers to automatically enroll new employees in 401k or similar defined contribution retirement plans and to increase participants' savings rates over time. Even without new mandates to do so, however, more employers are adopting automatic features to increase employee participation and to encourage employees to save enough for a secure retirement.

Source: Shrm.org, April 2022

Auto-Enrolled 401k Loan Protection Has Potential to Save $2 Trillion

Auto-enrolled 401k loan protection is a powerful tool to preserve retirement savings, according to new research from the Employment Benefit Research Institute and Custodia Financial. The study shows a remarkable $1.96 trillion in retirement savings can be preserved if employers automatically enroll employees in 401k loan protection when they borrow from their defined contribution retirement plans.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, April 2022

How Do We Self-Correct a Failure to Enroll a New Employee in Our Automatic 401k Contributions?

The IRS's Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System offers several pre-approved methods that can be used to correct failures to implement automatic deferrals. The standard method for correcting full-year elective deferral failures (including enrollment failures under an automatic contribution arrangement) involves making a qualified nonelective contribution for 50% of the missed deferrals plus a contribution for the full amount of any missed matching or nonelective contributions. But lower-cost methods may be available if the correction is made within specified timeframes.

Source: Thomsonreuters.com, December 2021

Autoenrollment and the Importance of the Default

Automatic enrollment is a powerful strategy proven to increase retirement plan participation, but the newest -- and last -- edition of Nudge, a seminal book on behavioral finance coauthored by Nobel laureate Robert H. Thaler, stresses that the benefits of the popular strategy depend largely on how it is implemented.

Source: Vanguard.com, October 2021

How DC Plan Defaults Can Evolve to Improve American Retirement Security

From auto-enrollment to auto-escalation to auto-income. This is a 14-page paper on the evolving solutions available to sponsors, addressing fiduciary and portability concerns, and next steps for plan sponsors, recordkeepers, insurers, and consultants.

Source: Iricouncil.org, September 2021

How Ethical Is Automatic Enrollment in Retirement Plans?

It's no industry secret that automatically enrolling employees in a workplace retirement account has been successful in increasing the number of people saving for their retirement. And due to this success, the adoption of automatic-enrollment workplace retirement plans has grown over time. Although widely implemented, no studies have assessed how employees feel about such interventions. To find out, the author designed an experiment in which people evaluated retirement plans based on their enrollment feature: opt-in vs. automatic enrollment vs. automatic enrollment with automatic escalation.

Source: Morningstar.com, July 2021

Survey: 84% of Workers Say Auto-Enrolment Is Key to Saving Earlier for Retirement

The vast majority (84%) of workers that were automatically enrolled in their workplace retirement plan say they started to save for retirement sooner than if they had to take action to make the enrollment decision on their own. However, only one-third of employers currently offer automatic enrollment, and among those that do, just 21% have an automatic deferral rate of 6% of eligible pay, according to the latest quarterly Principal Retirement Security Survey.

Source: Principal.com, July 2021

Workers More Receptive to Auto-Features, Post-COVID-19

Eighty-four percent of workers who have been automatically enrolled into their workplace retirement plan say they are glad that their savings have been jump-started. They say auto-enrollment has gotten them on the retirement savings path at an earlier age than if they had decided on their own. This is according to Principal's latest "Retirement Security Survey," which is based on a poll of more than 2,000 workers and retirees, and 230 plan sponsors.

Source: Planadviser.com, July 2021

The Impact(s) of Automatic Enrollment

A new study finds that automatic enrollment not only triples the participation rate of new hires, but that over time the vast majority increase their deferral rates. The report from researchers at Vanguard, found that among new hires, participation rates triple to 91% under automatic enrollment, compared with 28% under voluntary enrollment. Over time, 9 in 10 participants increase their deferral rates, either automatically or on their own, and more than three-quarters of participants remain exclusively invested in the default investment fund.

Source: Asppa.org, March 2021

New Data Further Showcases Power of Auto Enrollment

Automatic enrollment triples the 401k plan participation rate among new hires according to some recently updated research from Vanguard. The research shows default decisions made by defined contribution plan sponsors under automatic enrollment indeed have a powerful influence on participant saving and investment behavior.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, March 2021

Automatic Enrollment: The power of the Default

According to this 17-page Vanguard study, the default decisions made by defined contribution plan sponsors under automatic enrollment have a powerful influence on participant saving and investment behavior. Among new hires, participation rates triple to 91% under automatic enrollment, compared with 28% under voluntary enrollment. Over time, 9 in 10 participants increase their deferral rates, either automatically or on their own, and more than three-quarters of participants remain exclusively invested in the default investment fund.

Source: Vanguard.com, March 2021

Is Auto-Enrollment "Not Optimal"?

A recent industry trade article questions the efficacy of saving early for retirement and notes that there "may even be such a thing as saving too much." What launches that premise is a research paper titled "Is Automatic Enrollment Consistent with a Life Cycle Model?" That turns out to be a relatively fancy academic title for a simple concept: Does automatic enrollment make sense for younger adults?

Source: Asppa.org, March 2021

Why "Six is the New Three" When It Comes to Automatic Enrollment

Instead of auto-enrolling participants at a 3% salary deferral rate, which traditionally has been the case, why not auto-enroll them at a more meaningful 6%? After all, they can still opt-out, and 6% will provide a far more meaningful benefit at retirement than a 3% default rate ever could. While this could backfire if more participants opt-out of auto-enrolment because of the higher rate automatic deferral rate, according to John Hancock's State of the Participant 2020 report, the opposite is the case.

Source: Cammackretirement.com, September 2020

Participants Looking for "Extreme" Automatic 401k Plans, Survey

Believing their workplace retirement savings plan is one of the most important benefits their employer offers, a large majority of employees support employer efforts to implement automatic plan features. According to the survey by American Century Investments, some 7 in 10 respondents believe automatic enrollment should be implemented at a 6% contribution rate, and two out of three believe their employer should automatically enroll employees into their plan at a set percent and increase it automatically each year.

Source: Napa-net.org, August 2020

Despite Challenges, 401k Plan Design Drives Positive Outcomes

Despite a slight decrease, 401k plans that auto-enroll continue to drive far greater participation, according to an annual report that examines the latest trends in participant behavior and plan design. In its 2020 Reference Point report, T. Rowe Price found that in 2019, participation in the firm's auto-enrollment plans was 85.3%, outstripping non-auto-enrollment plans by more than 40 percentage points. Overall, the firm reports that more than 61% of plans at T. Rowe Price automatically enroll participants.

Source: Napa-net.org, July 2020

Auto Features Push Plan Participation, Contribution Rates to Highest in a Decade

Capped by a strong 2019, the 2010s by many measures was the decade of the defined contribution investor, according to Alight's 2020 Universe Benchmarks report. Thanks in large part to employers adopting automatic features, more workers were participating in plans, the average savings rate was up, more portfolios were diversified and loan use was lower compared to the beginning of the decade, according to the firm's annual report, which shows how the DC world has changed over the past decade.

Source: Asppa.org, June 2020

Adoption of 401k Auto Features Climbs, but Growth May Slow

A new study finds that a significant percentage of plan sponsors have embraced the use of automatic plan design features, but adoption may have plateaued to some degree. The DCIIA plan sponsor survey reveals that 69% of plans currently offer auto-enrollment, up from 60% in 2016. And that finding generally holds for both large and small asset-size cohorts. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of plans with over $200 million in assets have now adopted the feature, up from 67% in 2016, while 63% of plans with less than $200 million in assets have now adopted it, up from 51% in 2016.

Source: Napa-net.org, April 2020

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