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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Summary: 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
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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").
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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.
Summary: 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
Summary: SHRM's 2014 Employee Benefits research report provides comprehensive information about the types of benefits U.S. employers offer to their employees. In 2014, more than 300 benefits were explored. The report also examines trends in employee benefits offerings over the last five years.
Source: Shrm.org, June 2014
Summary: Significant differences exist between the attitudes and expectations of Americans who are currently working vs. those already retired, according to the most recent findings from Northwestern Mutual's 2014 Planning and Progress Study. Most notably, the research suggests that substantial changes in retirement age and lifestyle are on the horizon. This is a 16 page summary.
Summary: MetLife developed the Qualified Retirement Plan Barometer study, first released in 2011, as a benchmark for assessing, at a point in time, whether, and to what extent, Fortune 1000 companies were creating a retirement income culture within their respective organizations -- one that includes emphasis on both retirement savings and retirement income. This just released 28 page document is the 2014 version.
Summary: The main concerns affecting retirement savings plans remain largely the same -- improving plan participation and contribution rates and enhancing portfolio diversification -- although increasingly these changes are occurring through plan and investment menu design decisions made by sponsors, rather than by participants' own decisions. This is a 99 page comprehensive analysis of DC plans and participant behavior based on 2013 Vanguard recordkeeping data.
Summary: The Aegon Retirement Readiness survey for 2014 is clearer than ever about people's ambitions and fears with respect to retirement. Now in its third year, conducted in collaboration with Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, Aegon's global retirement survey covers 15 countries and contains findings based on online questionnaires conducted with 16,000 people who either work in paid employment or live in retirement.
Summary: This survey is one of the largest and longest-running of its kind. It explores retirement issues among American workers and their employers. The study is a robust, nationally representative survey conducted by an independent research company. The large sample enables TCRS to delve into comparisons across many demographics and provides a basis to educate the American public on trends, issues, and opportunities related to saving and planning for retirement and achieving financial security in retirement.
Source: Transamericacenter.org, April 2014
Summary: PIMCO's DC Practice has prepared the 2014 Defined Contribution Consulting Support and Trends Survey to help plan sponsors understand the breadth of views and specific consulting services available within the DC marketplace. This survey captures data, trends and opinions from 49 consulting firms across the U.S., which serve over 7,800 clients with aggregate DC assets in excess of $2.8 trillion.
Summary: The migration of American retirement savings from centralized, risk-pooling structures (Social Security and pensions) towards individual retirement plans (401k plans and other tax-favored, individually managed accounts) has had collateral consequences. This Article argues that each of these soft interventions has failed and will continue to fail in improving the allocation of retirement portfolios. In particular, soft interventions are undermined by particular aspects of the retirement-allocation decision -- including pervasive conflicts of interest in the mutual fund and retirement advisory industry, inherent difficulty, and legitimate uncertainty.
Source: Ssrn.com, April 2014
Summary: Financial markets gave investors a white-knuckled ride in 2008 and 2009, forcing plan sponsors and participants to confront the unpleasant reality of market volatility. This white paper discusses some of the primary fiduciary considerations pertinent to including plan investments that offer downside risk management in a defined contribution plan menu.
Summary: This white paper introduces a framework based on a common-sense definition of risk: not having enough wealth in retirement. Viewing risk this way leads to highly customizable solutions. Paper shows that dynamic asset allocation -- moving your assets -- is an essential part of achieving retirement goals. This paper is divided into two parts. Part I frames the question and explain how our framework leads to flexible, customizable solutions. Part II demonstrates the importance of dynamic allocation.
Summary: In the aggregate, worker savings remain low, and only a minority appear to be taking basic steps to prepare for retirement. On the other hand, there are notable differences between the behaviors -- and confidence -- of those who indicate they or their spouse have a retirement plan, and those who do not.
Summary: Most active 401k plan participants have the option of borrowing from their retirement accounts, and nearly 40 percent do so over a five-year period. Paper shows that employers' loan rules have a strong endorsement effect on borrowing patterns; that is, in plans allowing multiple loans, participants are more likely to borrow and take out larger loans. Also notes that defined contribution retirement plans, while designed mainly to support old-age financial security, include important features for financing current consumption.
Source: Pensionresearchcouncil.org, February 2014
Summary: This paper discusses why employer-sponsored defined contribution plans and individual retirement accounts are such an important part of the U.S. retirement system. Discusses the numerous positive strides taken by many plan sponsors to increase participation, provide more diversified portfolios, and provide immediate eligibility to cater to a mobile workforce.
Summary: 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 households value the discipline and investment opportunity that 401k plans represent and that households were largely opposed to changing the tax preferences or investment control in those accounts.
Summary: This 24 page study analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of Millennials, Generation X, Late Baby Boomers and Early Baby Boomers based on 23,749 employees who answered a financial wellness assessment.
Summary: Employees are putting 401k contributions on the back burner as their concerns about paying for health care continue to grow. That's according to the latest edition of the annual Mercer Workplace Survey, a nationally representative poll of retirement plan participants who also receive health benefits at work. The 2013 study also revealed a number of troubling contradictions that carry important implications for plan sponsors and administrators.
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