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COLLECTED WISDOM™ on Studies and Research focused on 401k Plans

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401ks Substantially More Costly Than Pensions

401k retirement accounts are substantially more costly than pension plans, according to a new analysis from the national institute on retirement security. Economic efficiencies unique to pensions enable plans to deliver retirement benefits at half the cost of 401k accounts, with four-fifths of the cost differential occurring post-retirement.

Source: Nirsonline.org, January 2022

Auto-Enrollment Retirement Plans in OregonSaves

This new study looks at the impact of the first state-sponsored auto-IRA program on those who previously lacked access to a plan. It analyzes participation choices, inflow and outflow data between August 2018 and April 2020, and the evolution of account balances.

Source: Umich.edu, January 2022

A Visual Depiction of the Shift From DB to DC Plans in the Private Sector

This 3-page report from the Congressional Research Service illustrates the shift from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans that has taken place in the last 40 years.

Source: Congress.gov, December 2021

The Impact of Employer Defaults and Match Rates on Retirement Saving

This study evaluates the interaction between employer match and default rates on savings outcomes among new employees. Selecting a higher default rate has the largest impact on employee savings rates. Plans with low default rates that match a high percentage of employee earnings induce higher-income participants to actively move away from the low default savings rate, resulting in a wider savings gap between higher- and lower-income employees. When default savings rates are set higher, fewer employees move away from the default resulting in higher and more equal savings rates. Additionally, there is evidence that higher default savings rates increase usage of plan default investments.

Source: Ssrn.com, December 2021

Study Suggests Substantial Retirement Risks Remain

While most U.S. workers say they are saving for retirement through employer-sponsored plans or other means, a much smaller percentage say they are "very confident" they will be able to retire fully and comfortably. According to the 320-page Compendium of Findings About the Retirement Outlook of U.S. Workers from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, more than four out of five workers (82%) say they are saving for retirement through their current employer's 401k or similar plan and/or outside of work.

Source: Asppa.org, December 2021

A Compendium of Findings About the Retirement Outlook of U.S. Workers

Since 1998, Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies has conducted this national survey of U.S. business employers and workers regarding their attitudes toward retirement. The overall goals for the study are to illuminate emerging trends, promote awareness, and help educate the public. It has grown to be one of the longest-running and largest national surveys of its kind. This document is 320-pages.

Source: Transamericainstitute.org, December 2021

Worker Participation in Employer-Sponsored Pensions: Data in Brief

This 7-page report provides data on the percentage of U.S. workers who have access to and who participate in employer-sponsored pension plans. The data are from the National Compensation Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Source: Congress.gov, November 2021

Private-Sector Retirement Plans; Abstract of 2019 Form 5500 Annual Reports

Private-sector retirement plans are required by ERISA to submit annual reports on the operations, funding, and investments of their employee benefit plans, which is satisfied by filing Form 5500. This 72-page paper presents summary statistics from Form 5500 series reports for plan years ending in 2019. The information presented includes weighted counts of plans and participants for both defined benefit and defined contribution retirement plans, various break-outs of these plan characteristics, as well as information on their assets, contributions, and investments.

Source: Dol.gov, October 2021

Changes in 401k Plan Asset Allocation Among Consistent Participants, 2010-2018

This paper provides an update of a longitudinal analysis of plan participants drawn from the EBRI/ICI 401k database. It examines how asset allocations change over the years within the accounts of consistent participants, that is, those who maintained accounts in each year from 2010 through 2018.

Source: Ebri.org, October 2021

Study Reveals That Americans Are Shifting Retirement Due to Pandemic

New research from Northwestern Mutual shows that Covid-19 has changed many Americans' retirement plans, with over one-third (35%) saying it has either moved up or pushed back their target retirement age. Almost a quarter (24%) plan to retire later than previously expected while 11% plan to retire earlier.

Source: Prnewswire.com, October 2021

Managed Accounts and TDFs Better Together Than Apart, Research

For years plan sponsors and consultants have compared the outcomes of managed accounts and target-date funds within workplace retirement plans. The thinking was that plan sponsors and consultants should choose one or the other to offer retirement plan participants. New research and analysis from Empower Institute show that managed accounts and target-date funds instead complement each other and together can improve investors' retirement savings outcomes.

Source: Empower-retirement.com, October 2021

Target-Date Funds: Evidence Points to Growing Popularity and Appropriate Use by 401k Plan Participants

Since 1996, the EBRI and the ICI have worked together on collecting and analyzing annual data on millions of 401k plan participants' accounts. This 21-page report analyzes 401k plan participant's use of target-date funds using year-end 2018 data from the EBRI/ICI 401k database. Key findings are summarized.

Source: Ebri.org, September 2021

Rising 401k Contribution Rates, Fewer Plan Loans, Show a Return to Normal

The average annual 401k savings rate for plan participants reached a new high of 9.3 percent of workers' earnings this year, according to new research. Fidelity's analysis, released in August and based on 23,600 Fidelity-administered corporate defined contribution plans as of June 30, 2021, showed workers starting to feel more stability and a sense of normalcy, compared with the results of participant surveys Fidelity conducted last year.

Source: Shrm.org, August 2021

40% of 401k Participants Say Fees a Mystery, GAO Reports

Almost 40% of 401k plan participants do not fully understand the fees they are paying, a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday found. Moreover, 41% of participants incorrectly believe that they do not pay any 401k plan fees, according to the report.

Source: Pionline.com, August 2021

2021 PLANSPONSOR 403b Market Survey

403b plans are in many ways the same as traditional corporate 401k plans, but they also have many unique challenges. The PLANSPONSOR 403b Market Survey covers the providers who serve this market, what they focus on in terms of market segment, and the services they provide to 403b plan sponsors.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, August 2021

Data on Retirement Contributions to Defined Contribution Plans

Individuals can save for retirement in two types of tax-advantaged accounts: defined contribution and individual retirement accounts. This Congressional Research Service report provides Internal Revenue Service data on contributions to DC accounts in 2018.

Source: Crsreports.congress.gov, August 2021

2021 RIA Benchmarking Study

The RIA Benchmarking Study by Schwab Advisor Services is a leading study of the RIA industry. The study features insights based on self-reported information on topics such as asset and revenue growth, sources of new clients, products and pricing, staffing, compensation, marketing, technology, and financial performance. Now in its fifteenth year, more than 1,300 independent advisor firms representing over $1.5 trillion in AUM participated in this year's study.

Source: Schwab.com, July 2021

2021 Recordkeeping Survey

The annual PLANSPONSOR Recordkeeping Survey is compiled from self-reported data submitted by recordkeepers of defined contribution plans. This year's results represent nearly $9 trillion in DC assets and are estimated to account for over 90% of the total DC market, according to internal analysis based on the "2021 Investment Company [Institute] Fact Book."

Source: Plansponsor.com, July 2021

New Research Finds Millennials and Gen X Increasingly Concerned About Retirement in Wake of Pandemic

A national survey finds that Millennials and Generation X are more worried about retirement as compared to older generations. Sixty-four percent of Millennials and 54 percent of Generation X are more concerned about their retirement security in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The level of concern is at 42 percent for Baby Boomers and 25 percent for the Silent Generation.

Source: Prnewswire.com, July 2021

2021 Defined Contribution Plan Participant Survey Findings

This DC Plan Participant Survey was conducted as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted financial markets, workplace trends, and spending patterns. Against this backdrop, participants remained broadly resilient in maintaining their retirement savings efforts, but many also continued to appear overwhelmed and unsure about the various aspects of retirement planning.

Source: Jpmorgan.com, July 2021

The Economics of Providing 401k Plans: Services, Fees, and Expenses, 2020

The study found that 401k plan participants investing in mutual funds tend to hold lower-cost funds, the expense ratios that 401k plan participants incur for investing in mutual funds have declined substantially since 2000, and the downward trend in the expense ratios that 401k plan participants incur for investing in hybrid and bond mutual funds continued in 2020.

Source: Ici.org, 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

Data Find That Employer Contributions Are Widespread in 401k Plans

Employer contributions are prevalent in 401k plans, according to an updated study on 401k plans from BrightScope and the Investment Company Institute. The study found that in 2018, 87 percent of large 401k plans (typically those with 100 participants or more, as defined by the DOL) covering more than nine out of 10 401k participants had employer contributions.

Source: Ici.org, July 2021

Availability of State Auto-IRAs Appears to Complement Private Market for Retirement Plans

As more states enact retirement savings programs for private-sector workers who can't save through their jobs, policymakers and analysts have speculated about the potential impact on employers: Would these state programs "crowd out" the private market for plans such that businesses would not adopt their own 401ks or comparable alternatives? Preliminary data from DOL annual filings by employer-sponsored plans suggests that in states that have created what is known as an auto-IRA, employers with plans continue to offer them, and businesses without plans are still adopting new ones at similar or higher rates than before the state options were available.

Source: Pewtrusts.org, July 2021

2021 401k Participant Study

Plan participants are more positive in 2021 about meeting their retirement goals than they were last year at the beginning of the pandemic. Almost three in ten believe their lifestyle in retirement will improve. On average, participants think they need $1.9 million saved for retirement.

Source: Schwab.com, June 2021

Pandemic Drove Bump in Rollovers

Rollovers from defined contribution plans to IRAs increased by more than 12.6% in 2020, according to a recently released study. The Secure Retirement Institute estimates that rollovers from DC plans to IRAs totaled approximately $623 billion in 2020, up from the $565 billion transferred in 2019.

Source: Asppa.org, June 2021

2021 Canadian Retirement Survey

New research from HOOPP and Abacus Data show two of three Canadians have saved nothing for retirement during COVID, retirement tops list of worries. Most Canadians have not set aside anything for retirement in the past year (63%) which is up 5% since last year. The survey also found a widespread belief that better access to workplace pensions is needed to avoid a retirement crisis.

Source: Pensionpulse.Blogspot.com, June 2021

How Does Your 401k Plan Stack up?

An annual 401k plan benchmarking report finds that the top five industries with the best 401k plans continue to outpace the competition in nearly all metrics. The results of Judy Diamond Associates' fifth annual 401k Plan Benchmark Report show that the top five industries with the best 401k plans in 2019.

Source: Napa-net.org, June 2021

The Economics of Providing 401k Plans: Services, Fees, and Expenses, 2020

Key findings: 401k plan participants investing in mutual funds tend to hold lower-cost funds. The expense ratios that 401k plan participants incur for investing in mutual funds have declined substantially since 2000. The downward trend in the expense ratios that 401k plan participants incur for investing in hybrid and bond mutual funds continued in 2020. This is a 32-page report.

Source: Ici.org, June 2021

Abandoned Retirement Savings: White Paper

Retirement savings abandonment is a rising concern connected to DC systems and default enrollment. Authors use tax data on Individual Retirement Accounts to establish that in 2017, 2.7% of 72.5-year-old account-holders in total abandoned $790 million; the median abandoned account held $5,400. Nearly all of these funds remain with plans and are not sent to state unclaimed property. Regression discontinuity estimates show that abandonment is 10 times higher in automatic rollover IRAs, a type of default account. They nest their findings in a model of retirement savings featuring forgetting to derive implications for passive and active savers.

Source: Ssrn.com, June 2021

Defined Contribution Plan Recordkeeper Data Show Ongoing Commitment to Retirement Saving

Americans continued to save for retirement through DC plans early this year despite uncertain market conditions during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, according to ICI's "Defined Contribution Plan Participants' Activities, First Quarter 2021." The study tracks contributions, withdrawals, and other activity, based on DC plan recordkeeper data covering more than 30 million participant accounts in employer-based DC plans.

Source: Ici.org, June 2021

New Research From PSCA Illuminates Common Plan Committee Practices

If there was ever a meeting that couldn't be replaced with an email, it's that of a retirement plan committee, and while those structures are as varied as the companies that sponsor them, a new survey by the Plan Sponsor Council of America uncovers some key consistencies in structure and approach. Indeed, retirement plan committees have always been an essential element in assuring prudent retirement plan operation and administration. While there is perhaps no perfect number of committees -- or committee members -- their construction, monitoring, and maintenance through rotations and training are as critical to their effective operation as it is to the design of the plan functions they oversee.

Source: Psca.org, June 2021

Study on 401k Participant Activity and Plan Design Released

T. Rowe Price released Reference Point, its annual 401k benchmarking report featuring year-over-year data and analysis on participant behavior and plan design. The report is based on the firm's full-service recordkeeping client data and this year, it features findings derived through the lens of the global pandemic. Key findings are reviewed.

Source: Prnewswire.com, June 2021

2021 401k Universe Benchmarks Report

This annual report illustrates how workers are saving and investing in defined contribution plans. This year's version features data from 100 plans covering more than three million eligible participants. It highlights the most common benchmarking statistics, including plan participation rates, savings rates, balances, investment, and trading activity and distributions from accounts (e.g., loans, withdrawals, cash-outs, and rollovers).

Source: Alight.com, May 2021

Estimating Leakage From Retirement Savings Accounts

This document summarizes recent work by the Joint Committee staff to better understand contributions to and distributions from retirement accounts, with a particular emphasis on distributions from retirement accounts to pre-retirement age individuals (i.e., leakage). The base data underlying this analysis were constructed by the Joint Committee staff using 16 years of tax returns and information returns. These data are a new and unique set of nationally representative data on flows between individuals and retirement accounts. In this document, the Joint Committee staff reports estimates of leakage among working-age individuals and analyzes the extent to which certain common life events contribute to leakage.

Source: Jct.gov, April 2021

2021 Retirement Confidence Survey

The RCS is the longest-running survey of its kind, measuring worker and retiree confidence about retirement, and is conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald Research. The 2021 survey of 3,017 Americans was conducted online January 5 through January 25, 2021. All respondents were ages 25 or older. The survey included 1,507 workers and 1,510 retirees, which includes an oversample of roughly 500 completed surveys among Black Americans (252 workers and 253 retirees) and roughly 500 completed surveys among Hispanic Americans (253 workers and 249 retirees).

Source: Ebri.org, April 2021

How Participants Weathered the Challenges of 2020

This John Hancock report looks at saving and investing behavior -- and progress toward retirement readiness -- over the course of an unprecedented year. Despite obstacles associated with the pandemic, participants held the line with their retirement savings.

Source: Johnhancock.com, March 2021

Retirement Ages Geared to Life Expectancy

For most of the 20th century, life expectancy was on the rise. Yet older Americans were retiring at younger and younger ages. That changed in the 1990s. Life expectancy continued to rise, but retirement ages started increasing too. Given the change, Urban Institute researchers wondered whether the dramatic longevity gains experienced by the people who make it to their 50s and 60s could be counted as another reason for the delayed retirement trend. Their evidence suggests that growing lifespans are keeping men over age 55 in the labor force longer and postponing their retirement, particularly in areas with strong job markets and more opportunity.

Source: Bc.edu, March 2021

401k Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances, and Loan Activity in 2018

Since 1996, the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Investment Company Institute have worked together on collecting and analyzing annual data on millions of 401k plan participants' accounts. This new 36-page report reflects the year-end 2018 update of these data and EBRI and ICI's ongoing research into 401k plan participants' activity.

Source: Ebri.org, March 2021

A Survey of Plan Participants and Plan Sponsors

This report presents the results of an online survey of 1,005 plan participants, between the ages of 25 to 70, employed full-time at a company that has at least 50 employees, and currently contributing to a 401k or 403b plan. It also includes 502 plan sponsors who are employed full-time at a company that has at least 50 employees and offers a 401k or 403b plan.

Source: Tiaa.org, February 2021

American Views on Defined Contribution Plan Saving, 2020

The survey polled respondents about their views on DC retirement account saving and their confidence in 401k and other DC plan accounts. Survey responses indicated that Americans value the discipline and investment opportunity that 401k plans represent and that individuals were largely opposed to changing the tax preferences or investment control in those accounts. A majority of respondents also affirmed a preference for control of their retirement accounts and opposed proposals to require a portion of retirement accounts to be converted into a fair contract promising them income for life from either the government or an insurance company.

Source: Ici.org, February 2021

Plan Design During Challenging Times: 7 Actionable Insights From Behavioral Finance

If we make it easy to draw down savings during these extremely challenging times, how can we make it even easier to accumulate savings once the hardship is over? This 12-page whitepaper proposes changes to plan design that can boost savings once the economy recovers. It's a subject that's especially important and timely given current economic challenges.

Source: Voya.com, February 2021

Survey Tracks How DC Plans Operated in 2020

Because our world has changed so dramatically, Callan's annual Defined Contribution Survey has evolved to fit the rapidly shifting landscape facing DC plan sponsors. Their 14th annual survey covers the SECURE and CARES Acts, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the key tenets of DC plan management, financial wellness, and health savings accounts.

Source: Callan.com, February 2021

Study Finds Misplaced Concerns About COVID and Retirement

While there has been a lot of discussion about how COVID-related economic shutdowns have affected retirement security, a new paper suggests that things could have been a lot worse. The shutdowns could have worsened the picture for 401k plans if financial markets had collapsed, the recession had led to widespread withdrawals, or more employers had suspended their match. But these things did not happen, according to the report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Source: Napa-net.org, February 2021

NEPC's 2020 Defined Contribution Plan and Fee Survey

NEPC's 15th annual Defined Contribution Plan and Fee Survey focuses on measuring financial success for DC plans and participants and benchmarking industry fees. As part of the 2020 survey, it explores how plan sponsors can improve their participants' financial success by using plan features to increase savings rates, professionalize investment decisions, and facilitate the distribution of assets at retirement.

Source: Nepc.com, February 2021

Millennials' Readiness for Retirement: A 2019 Update

A prior CRR study found that, in 2016, Millennials lagged behind Gen Xers and Late Boomers in retirement preparedness. New data for 2019 show that Millennials are catching up in the labor market and in getting married and buying houses. However, despite also having similar retirement savings, Millennials' huge student debt burden still leaves them well behind prior cohorts in wealth accumulation.

Source: Bc.edu, February 2021

2021 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing

In early 2020, few people could have predicted that COVID-19 would have the everlasting societal impact that it has. Fortunately, despite market pressures, many employers remained steadfastly committed to helping their workers save and plan for retirement. This 32-page report shares the latest trends and changes in employer-sponsored defined benefit and defined contribution plans.

Source: Alight.com, January 2021

Another Record Year for Retirement Savings

PSCA's 63rd Annual Survey found record contribution and participation rates for the third year in a row. More employees had account balances in and contributed to, their plans than ever before, and employers contributed an average of 5.3% of gross annual pay to participants, the highest recorded to date. Plan participants contributed an average of 7.6% of pay in 2019, combined with the 5.3% of companies are pitching in gives an average savings rate of 12.9 percent in 2019.

Source: Psca.org, December 2020

2020 Defined Contribution Plan Sponsor Survey

We are approaching a new stage in the evolution of DC while standing in the middle of a heightened fiduciary risk environment. Plan sponsors are facing a crossroad and are asking themselves: How do we manage risk today while planning for tomorrow, and what is our role as DC plans evolve from supplemental savings plans to primary retirement and savings vehicles? Results of the Willis Towers Watson's 2020 U.S. Defined Contribution Plan Sponsor Survey.

Source: Willistowerswatson.com, December 2020

Company Stock in DC Plans

Employers continue to evaluate company stock in light of litigation and single-stock risk as well as its impact on retirement accumulations. Plan sponsor interest surged in response to the 2014 Dudenhoeffer case. This 16-page paper begins with an overview of factors unique to company stock in DC plans. Next, it provides an overview of the characteristics of plan sponsors that actively offer company stock and the nature of company stock restrictions. It then considers two simple regression models, incorporating both participant demographics and plan design features, that examine holdings of company stock. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of our findings and with implications for plan sponsors.

Source: Vanguard.com, December 2020

COVID-19 Impact on 401k Plans

In contrast to the response during the 2008-09 financial crisis, more than 90 percent of employers will make their retirement plan contributions this year, though smaller organizations are more likely to have suspended or reduced plan contributions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to this 7-page PSCA snapshot survey of retirement plan sponsors. Though most companies are not making changes to plan contributions this year, smaller organizations have been more impacted by current conditions and are thus more likely to have suspended or reduced plan contributions.

Source: Psca.org, December 2020

Worker Participation in Employer-Sponsored Pensions: Data in Brief

This report provides data on the percentage of U.S. workers who have access to and who participate in employer-sponsored pension plans. Not all workers who have access to a pension plan at work participate in the plan. About 70% of all U.S. workers have access to employer-sponsored pensions and about 55% of U.S. workers participate in their plans. But the percentage of workers who participate in plans to which they have access differs between DB and DC plans.

Source: Crsreports.congress.gov, December 2020

Impact of COVID-19 and Economic Conditions on 403b Plans

PSCA conducted a brief survey of 403b plan sponsors in October 2020 to determine how they are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic conditions. This is the full 10-page report.

Source: Psca.org, December 2020

DC Plan Participants' Activities, First Three Quarters of 2020

This 20-page report covered DC plan participants' activities in the first nine months of 2020. In this period, stock prices declined sharply before recovering. Preliminary data indicate that the commitment to contribution activity continued at the high rate observed in the first nine months of other years. Most DC plan participants stayed the course with their asset allocations despite high stock market volatility at the end of the first quarter of 2020. DC plan participants' loan activity edged down in the third quarter of 2020, perhaps partly reflecting the use of CRDs instead of loans.

Source: Ici.org, November 2020

The Evolving DC Landscape: The Expanding Role of OCIOs

New research from PGIM sheds light on the use of outsourced chief investment officers by defined contribution plan sponsors. In a divergence of opinion, OCIOs seem to underweight their expertise in implementing institutional-quality structures, indicating that the top reasons for being hired by their clients were the perceived mitigation of fiduciary risk and the plan sponsors' lack of resources.

Source: Pgim.com, October 2020

2020 Plan Investment Trends

PSCA and NAPA surveyed plan sponsors and retirement plan advisors (separately) between January 21 and February 21, 2020, regarding current plan menu designs and investment trends. This is a 44-page report.

Source: Psca.org, October 2020

Report: What Does Consistent Participation in 401k Plans Generate?

This paper provides an update of a longitudinal analysis of 401k plan participants drawn from the EBRI/ICI 401k database. A few key insights emerge from looking at the 1.9 million consistent participants in the EBRI/ICI 401k database over the eight years from year-end 2010 to year-end 2018.

Source: Ebri.org, October 2020

Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future

In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to. Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement.

Source: Gao.gov, September 2020

Combined 401k Plan and IRA Balances by Age and Time

Owning both a 401k plan and an individual retirement account leads to larger balances, but missed opportunities to contribute and leakage reduce those balances. One-page report.

Source: Ebri.org, September 2020

The Growing Burden of Retirement

Addressing the twin retirement challenges of more risk and rising costs, along with the decline in overall retirement savings, will require a concerted societal effort. This 24-page report offers a roadmap to the various hurdles that make retirement security difficult to achieve. Stepping back and viewing the entire picture of the different retirement challenges can help to understand just how much the burden has grown.

Source: Nirsonline.org, September 2020

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