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

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.

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What Retirement Plan Sponsors Value Most From Financial Advisors

Abstract: This 28-page survey report finds that plan sponsors prefer to work with plan advisors who emphasize employee education, good customer service and reducing plan costs as core to their value proposition. Among those already working with an advisor, fiduciary support trumps cost on this list.

Source: Massmutual.com, January 2016

The New Flexible Retirement

Abstract: This 28-page report illustrates that today's workers are expecting to "transition" into retirement, but face a significant obstacle. Few employers have employment practices to support them. Policymakers, employers, and workers each play a critical role in redefining retirement, retirement benefits, and employment practices to keep step with increases in longevity and the implications of population aging.

Source: Transamericacenter.org, January 2016

Guardian Workplace Benefits Study

Abstract: Guardian announced new findings from the third annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study that outlines how one in three employers now outsource all of their benefits administration, up 20 percent since 2013. Given their reliance on workplace benefits for overall financial preparedness, it's not surprising employees believe that employers have a responsibility to offer core insurance and retirement benefits to workers.

Source: Guardiananytime.com, January 2016

A Look at Access to Employer-based Retirement Plans and Participation in the States

Abstract: Policymakers have emphasized the need to expand access to what are known as employer-sponsored defined contribution plans, such as 401ks. The ability of employees to contribute directly from their paychecks and the use of features such as automatic enrollment makes the workplace an effective place to encourage saving. Today, only about half of workers participate in a workplace retirement plan, according to this 44-page analysis of data compiled by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Source: Pewtrusts.org, January 2016

2016 Defined Contribution Trends

Abstract: Callan fielded the 2016 Defined Contribution Trends Survey in the fall of 2015. Survey results include responses from 144 plan sponsors, primarily large and mega 401k plans. Highlights key themes and findings from 2015 and expectations for 2016.

Source: Callan.com (registration may be required), January 2016

Simplifying Choices in DC Retirement Plan Design

Abstract: In view of the growth and popularity of DC plans, along with the government's growing attention to retirement plan costs and investment choices provided, it is important to evaluate how people select their plan investments. This paper tracks how employees in a large firm altered their fund allocations when the employer streamlined its pension fund menu, tiering options in an easier-to-understand format.

Source: Tiaa-crefinstitute.org, January 2016

Defined Contribution Plan Profile: A Close Look at 401k Plans

Abstract: This new 74-page study of 401k plans analyzes the prevalence of automatic enrollment, employer contributions, and participant loans in the plans, as well as trends in plan investment options and fees. Study is based on 2013 data.

Source: Ici.org, December 2015

Actionable Insights for Your Mobile Workforce

Abstract: Study on America's mobile workforce, providing insights into participant behaviors regarding retirement savings portability. The study offers plan sponsors with strategies to stem cashouts and to improve retirement outcomes.

Source: 401ktv.com, December 2015

2015 Survey of Defined Contribution Viewpoints

Abstract: This is a 25-page report on the results of a survey of over 400 DC plan sponsors and industry professionals at asset management, recordkeeping and consulting firms. These real-time insights can help inform plan sponsors and others of the potential direction in which the industry may be headed regarding a variety of topics and shed light on changing viewpoints and emerging best practices.

Source: Rocaton.com, December 2015

2015 Stable Value Study

Abstract: Stable value funds have played an important role in DC plans for many years. This is the third Stable Value Study that MetLife has commissioned to gain strategic insight into the current marketplace for this capital preservation investment option within DC plans. This is a 27-page document.

Source: Metlife.com, December 2015

Understanding Re-Enrollment

Abstract: This 13-page research report explores the disconnect between the value employees place on their employer-provided benefits and other aspects of their lives, and to understand employees' perceptions of their benefits.

Source: Massmutual.com, December 2015

2015 Wells Fargo Retirement Study

Abstract: On behalf of Wells Fargo, Harris Poll conducted 1,251 telephone interviews of 851 working Americans 40 or older and 400 retired Americans, surveying attitudes and behaviors around planning, saving and investing for retirement. This eight-page document reviews the key findings.

Source: Wellsfargomedia.com, November 2015

2015 Defined Contribution Survey

Abstract: This annnual DC Survey measures and evaluates the satisfaction levels of 401k and other DC providers according to feedback from their plan sponsor clients. Major defined contribution providers are rated in 23 areas of participant/sponsor services. The information collected is intended for plan sponsors to gauge their plans against their peers.

Source: Plansponsor.com, November 2015

The 2015 Retirement Plan Adviser Survey

Abstract: Arguably, retirement plan advisers have a better perspective than their plan sponsor clients about the relative strength of products and services offered by investment and recordkeeping providers. The 2015 Retirement Plan Adviser Survey endeavors to gain insight from the adviser community about how providers and funds are selected, and which are the favorites each year.

Source: Planadviser.com, October 2015

The Real Cost of Fees

Abstract: Based on the findings in this 23-page report, there is a wide range in the cost of fees associated with investment accounts, yet even the lowest average cost represents hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost savings. If the capital currently lost to fees remained invested, retirement savings could increase by an equally significant amount.

Source: Personalcapital.com, October 2015

2015 Trends and Experience in DC Plans Survey

Abstract: With a vested interest in helping workers accumulate sufficient retirement savings, employers have been busy bolstering their DC plan provisions and investment offerings. This report finds that DC plans are changing in rapid ways as employers undertake rigorous reviews to promote more participation, encourage greater savings, and improve investment funds.

Source: Aon.com, October 2015

2015 MassMutual Employee Benefits Security Study

Abstract: This research explores the disconnect between the value employees place on their employer-provided benefits and other aspects of their lives, to understand employees' perceptions of their benefits, and to determine the level of interest in employee benefits and personal finance guidance tools.

Source: Massmutual.com, October 2015

Are 401k Investment Menus Set Solely for Plan Participants?

Abstract: This seven page Center for Retirement Research study found that additions and deletions from the 401k plan investment lineup favor the fund company's own family of funds which adversely affected the retirement income security of participants.

Source: Bc.edu, October 2015

2015 Defined Contribution Trends

Abstract: Fifty-four page survey highlights plan sponsors key themes and expectations for 2015. Results incorporate responses from 144 plan sponsors, primarily large and mega 401k plans.

Source: Callan.com,, September 2015

Survey on Participants Views About Responsible Investing

Abstract: Calvert Investments released the results of a comprehensive study of employer-sponsored defined contribution plan participants (and eligible non-participants) on the subject of responsible investing. The survey explored participants' familiarity with responsible investing and receptivity to the concept.

Source: Calvert.com, September 2015

Global Retirement Survey 2015

Abstract: The 2015 global retirement survey shows that savers are feeling better about the future, but many still lack adequate savings. There’s still important work to be done. In the United States, retirement confidence has more than doubled since 2013. In part, the increase in retirement confidence may be a natural corollary to a general increase in overall consumer confidence.

Source: Ssga.com, September 2015

2015 Gender Gap in Financial Wellness Report

Abstract: Report examined the gender gap as it relates to the current shortfall in retirement savings. Using an example of a median 45-year-old man and woman, the report looks at median incomes, deferral rates, retirement savings, life expectancies, and projected healthcare costs to determine how much each would need to save in order to replace 70 percent of their income in retirement. The report found a 26 percent gap in the savings shortfall and further, a purchasing power gap of 95 percent between men and women in terms of extra dollars needed to fund retirement expenses.

Source: Financialfinesse.com, September 2015

2015 Defined Contribution Benchmarking Survey

Abstract: This 68 page benchmarking survey found that plan sponsors and providers have invested nearly across the board in expanding offerings to engage employees, from automatic enrollment and step-up contributions, to individual financial counseling and mobile transaction processing.

Source: Iscebs.org, September 2015

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

Abstract: This 32 page report concludes that the downward trend in the expense ratios that 401k plan participants incur for investing in mutual funds continued in 2014. The average expense ratio that 401k plan participants incurred for investing in equity mutual funds fell from 0.58 percent in 2013 to 0.54 percent in 2014.

Source: Ici.org, August 2015

16th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey

Abstract: This 185-page report provides a five-year trend analysis and in-depth perspectives on access to employer-sponsored retirement benefits, savings rates, planning-related activities and the changing nature of retirement.

Source: Transamericacenter.org, August 2015

Small-Business DC Plan Benchmarking Report

Abstract: This 28 page benchmarking report is designed to help small-business DC plan sponsors understand how their plans compare with other small-business plans. Information can help small-businesses make more effective plan decisions and serve as a valuable reference tool.

Source: Vanguard.com, August 2015

Will the Average Retirement Age Continue to Increase?

Abstract: This paper examines how changes in individual workers' past and present pension coverage, retirement incentives in Social Security, and retiree health insurance have contributed to retirement decisions for the 1931-1953 birth cohorts. It then uses these findings to project retirement behavior for the 1955-1987 cohorts.

Source: Bc.edu, July 2015

Do Catch-Up Contributions Increase 401k Saving?

Abstract: To encourage Americans to save more for retirement, some suggest raising 401k "catch-up" contribution limits. To assess such an option, this analysis estimates the effects of a 2001 increase in 401k limits that also introduced a higher "catch-up" limit for those 50 and over. Findings are not encouraging.

Source: Bc.edu, July 2015

Social Interaction Effects and Individual Portfolio Choice: Evidence From 401k Plan Investors

Abstract: Paper finds that participants are influenced by their coworkers when they make equity investment decisions. Using a rich dataset of 401k plans, researchers find that individuals are likely to increase their risky share when they have lower equity exposure than their coworkers in the last period. The effect is especially strong when the difference in equity exposure is substantial.

Source: Pensionresearchcouncil.org, June 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

2015 Defined Contribution Plan Sponsor Survey Findings

Abstract: This 30 page report provides insight into plan sponsors' interpretation of the roles of their DC plans, goals and philosophies in providing retirement benefits, considerations driving plan-related decisions and actions underway to help employees reach retirement success.

Source: Jpmorganfunds.com, June 2015

Principal's Financial Well-Being Index: May 2015

Abstract: This 11 page report is the results of a survey was conducted online within the United States on by Harris Poll between February 9 and February 17, 2015 among 1,111 employees. This is one in a series of quarterly studies to identify and track changes in the financial well-being of American workers.

Source: Principal.com, May 2015

16th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey

Abstract: The 16th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey finds American workers are continuing to recover from the Great Recession and its aftereffects. While the economy is recovering, the U.S. retirement landscape is also continuing to evolve, with increases in life expectancies, the need for Social Security reform, and an even greater need for individuals and families to plan and save for their future financial security. Most workers are rising to the challenge by savings, but are they saving enough? Are they properly planning?

Source: Transamericacenter.org, May 2015

Defined Contribution Plan Participants' Activities, 2014

Abstract: This 12 page report updates results from ICI's survey of a cross section of recordkeeping firms representing a broad range of DC plans and covering more than 25 million employer-based DC retirement plan participant accounts as of December 2014. The broad scope of the recordkeeper survey provides valuable insights about recent withdrawal, contribution, asset allocation, and loan decisions of participants in these plans.

Source: Ici.org, April 2015

Boomer Expectations for Retirement 2015

Abstract: Each year the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) conducts a survey to measure the retirement preparedness of the Boomer generation. This report, the fifth in the series, summarizes the results of the 2015 survey and analyzes key changes over the past five years.

Source: Myirionline.org, April 2015

15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey Compendium

Abstract: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies released this "Compendium of Findings About American Employers" from its 15th Annual Retirement Survey. This comprehensive new report provides an in-depth 127-page overview of employers’ perspectives on retirement benefits, plan sponsorship rates, adoption of specific plan features, and their perceptions of their employees’ retirement preparedness. The report also offers detailed comparisons between small and large companies as well as a five-year trend analysis on selected survey questions.

Source: Transamericacenter.org, April 2015

Automated Investment Services: Are DC Plan Participants Better Off Using These Services?

Abstract: This study delves deep to analyze the investment returns of do-it-yourself retirement plan investors vs. those using an automated investment allocation service. Key highlights: 1) The median return for participants using an automated investment allocation service was approximately 11.7% higher than the median return for participants using a DIY approach. 2) Automated investment allocation may decrease the likelihood of low or negative returns.

Source: Trsretirementservices.com, April 2015

Target-Date Fund Adoption in 2014

Abstract: In 2014, the use of target-date funds in DC plans continued to grow rapidly. At the end of last year, 88% of plans offered a TDF, 64% of all participants were invested in the funds, and the funds accounted for 41% of total plan contributions. In this eight page paper you'll get the latest statistics on TDFs.

Source: Vanguard.com, April 2015

Retirement Planning Among Middle-Aged and Older Hispanics

Abstract: The goal of this study is to deepen the understanding of how middle age and older Hispanics plan for retirement. It finds that that most participants, whether they were already retired or not, are not well prepared for retirement since they have been unable to save for retirement and have not made specific retirement plans.

Source: Ssrn.com, March 2015

Current U.S. Retirement Savings Deficit is $4.13 Trillion

Abstract: EBRI releases data showing that the aggregate national retirement savings deficit is about $4.13 trillion for all U.S. households where the head of the household is between 25 and 64, inclusive.

Source: Ebri.org, March 2015

401k Participant Behavior in a Volatile Economy

Abstract: The booms and busts of the late 1990s and 2000s have taken 401k plan participants on a rollercoaster ride. Paper examines how participants responded to these periods of economic expansions and contractions by documenting changes in 401k participation, contributions, and contribution rates from 1990 to 2009.

Source: Urban.org, March 2015

Retirement Security 2015: Roadmap for Policy Makers

Abstract: The National Institute on Retirement Security commissioned its fourth nationwide public opinion research project monitor how Americans feel about their financial security in retirement and to assess their views on policies that could improve their retirement outlook. This research is intended to serve as a tool for policymakers, thought leaders and retirement service providers as they work to stem the retirement crisis and re-fortify the U.S. retirement infrastructure.

Source: Nirsonline.org, March 2015

Racial Disparities in 401k Savings Behavior

Abstract: This paper examines 401k saving behavior of continuously employed workers over an eight-year period at a single, geographically diverse employer. Paper demonstrate substantial difference in 401k savings behavior by employee ethnicity even within a single employer 401k plan architecture.

Source: Nber.org, February 2015

Defined Contribution Plan Participants Activities, First Three Quarters of 2014

Abstract: Key findings include: (1) DC plan withdrawal activity in the first three quarters of 2014 remained low and was similar to the activity observed in 2013. (2) The commitment to contribution activity in the first three quarters of 2014 continued at the high rate observed 2013. (3) Most DC plan participants stayed the course with their asset allocations. (4) DC plan participants' loan activity remains elevated compared with six years ago.

Source: Ici.org, February 2015

American Views on Defined Contribution Plan Saving

Abstract: This 28 page Investment Company Institute survey polled respondents about their views on defined contribution retirement account saving and their confidence in 401k and other DC plan accounts. It reflects households' responses collected between November 2014 and December 2014.

Source: Ici.org, 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

401k Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances, and Loan Activity in 2013

Abstract: This comprehensive 56 page report is an update of EBRI and ICI's ongoing research into 401k plan participants' activity through year-end 2013.The report is divided into four sections: the first describes the EBRI/ICI 401k database; the second presents a snapshot of participant account balances at year-end 2013; the third looks at participants' asset allocations, including analysis of 401k participants' use of target-date, or lifecycle, funds; and the fourth focuses on participants' 401k loan activity.

Source: Ebri.org, December 2014

New Research on Women and Retirement

Abstract: Retirement savings shortfalls are imminent unless women can start saving more, according to a new global study by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. The report on women in retirement polled 16,000 individuals in 15 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia. The report cites ways that policymakers and employers can help women and men achieve a better retirement.

Source: Transamericacenter.org, November 2014

Using DC Plans to Improve Retirement Readiness

Abstract: The 2014 DC Plan Sponsor Survey Report includes responses from 457 large and midsize U.S. companies that sponsor a 401k or 403(b) plan. It summarizes the design, investments, communication approaches and fee practices in their programs.

Source: Towerswatson.co, November 2014

The Middle-Income Boomer Retirement Gap: Savings, Education and Advice

Abstract: The challenges of saving, investing and managing assets through retirement are becoming more complex. Navigating this world requires an increased level of knowledge, training and experience with financial matters and an ability to draw on trusted resources for information and guidance. This study explores how middle-income Boomers are saving for retirement, and the extent they use financial professionals for retirement advice.

Source: Centerforasecureretirement.com, November 2014

Preliminary Information on IRA Balances Accumulated as of 2011

Abstract: In 2014, the U.S. federal government will forgo an estimated $17.5 billion in tax revenue from IRAs. Congress limited annual contributions to IRAs to prevent the tax-favored accumulation of unduly large balances, but concerns have been raised that tax benefits accrue primarily for higher -income individuals. This GAO report provides observations based on ongoing work on information on IRA balances in terms of reported fair market value aggregated by taxpayers.

Source: Gao.gov, October 2014

State of U.S. Employee Retirement Preparedness

Abstract: Financial Finesse has released its annual research report on the state of U.S. employee retirement preparedness for 2014. This 15 page report finds employers are taking the right steps to improve retirement plan preparedness, but economic and market uncertainty may be creeping into the national psyche.

Source: Financialfinesse.com, October 2014

NEPC 2014 Defined Contribution Plan & Fee Survey: What Plan Sponsors Are Doing Now

Abstract: NEPC's Defined Contribution practice group conducts an annual Defined Contribution Plan and Fee Survey to help plan sponsors understand and benchmark the fees, pricing and structure of their defined contribution plans. In its ninth year now, this 2014 Survey includes data from 113 plans, encompassing over 1.4 million plan participants. This is a five page summary.

Source: Nepc.com, October 2014

Inside the Structure of DC/401k Plan Fees

Abstract: As part of an ongoing comprehensive research program, the Investment Company Institute and Deloitte Consulting have prepared this third edition of the Defined Contribution/401k Fee Study. Specifically, this report addresses and updates: The mechanics of defined contribution plan fee structures; Components of plan fees; and Factors that impact fees ("fee drivers").

Source: Ici.org, August 2014

Deloitte's Annual Defined Contribution Benchmarking Survey

Abstract: Plan sponsors responding to Deloitte's Annual Defined Contribution Benchmarking Survey report an encouraging six percentage point uptick in the average employee participation rate, which rose from 71 percent in 2012 to 77 percent in 2013. But figuring out how to lure the remaining quarter of employees and increase engagement levels overall continues to be a perplexing challenge. The improving economy seems to have alleviated some employee anxiety about setting aside money for the future. Report is 85 pages.

Source: Deloitte.com, August 2014

Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2013

Abstract: Many households in the United States have been tested by the Great Recession. Large-scale financial strain at the household level ultimately fed into broader economic challenges for the country, and the completion of the national recovery will ultimately be, in part, a reflection of the well-being of households and consumers. To better understand the financial state of U.S. households, the Federal Reserve Board conducted a new consumer survey, the results of which are described in this report.

Source: Federalreserve.gov, August 2014

Transatlantic DC Participant Survey 2014

Abstract: While the regulatory environment governing retirement plans can vary greatly among different countries, plan sponsors in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States often face similar challenges. Regardless of geography, almost all plan sponsors have an opportunity to do more. This survey shows that plan sponsors can improve retirement readiness by helping participants increase their savings, providing more financial education to workers and retirees, and designing retirement vehicles that are easy to understand and access.

Source: Ssga.com, August 2014

What Does Consistent Participation in 401k Plans Generate?

Abstract: At year-end 2012, the average account balance among consistent participants was 67 percent higher than the average account balance among all participants in the EBRI/ICI 401k database. The consistent group's median balance was almost three times the median balance across all participants at year-end 2012.

Source: Ebri.org, August 2014

The Economics of Providing 401k Plans: Services, Fees, and Expenses, 2013

Abstract: To provide and maintain 401k plans, employers are required to obtain a variety of administrative, participant-focused, regulatory, and compliance services. All of these services involve costs. This updated study looks at those costs. Key findings include 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 plan participants incur for investing in mutual funds continued in 2013.

Source: Ici.org, July 2014

Financial Knowledge and 401k Investment Performance

Abstract: Financial knowledge is critical to ones retirement security, finds a new study showing that 401k plan participants who scored higher on a test of their financial knowledge earned an additional 1.3 percentage points of investment returns annually on their retirement accounts.

Source: Nber.org, July 2014

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