COLLECTED WISDOM™ on Studies and Research focused on 401k Plans
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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.
Summary: This paper is an annual update to ICI and EBRI's ongoing research into 401k plan participants' activity. 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 2012; 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: The U.S. retirement system has many components: Social Security provides a strong base, complemented by employer -- sponsored retirement plans, IRAs, annuities, and other savings. A growing component of that system is employer -- sponsored defined contribution arrangements, such as 401k plans. These plans are popular and successful with employees and employers. With consistent contributions over time, defined contribution plans can generate substantial retirement benefits, especially when combined with Social Security. This report brings to bear the most recent statistical data and the results of rigorous academic research.
Summary: The Society of Actuaries' Pension Section has made available this research report evaluating several of the more common retirement timing and claiming strategies using a retirement simulation model that incorporates investment, inflation, health and long-term care risks.
Summary: This paper establishes that firms that have frozen pension plans have reduced their costs of providing retirement benefits to workers even net of increases to 401k contributions over horizons ranging from one to ten years. Employees of these firms, on the other hand, have seen decreases in the net present value of their retirement benefits, again inclusive of increases to 401k plans. Furthermore, paper find that firms that have potentially more cost savings to gain by freezing plans are more likely to undertake pension freezes.
Summary: This paper focuses on the decisions that workers make at job change upon receipt of a lump-sum payment from an employment-based retirement plan. The number and level of the lump-sum distributions are estimated, followed by a discussion of what individuals do with these distributions and an analysis of important determinants of the decision to roll over the distributions compared with using the assets for other reasons.
Source: Ssrn.com, November 2013
Summary: This paper examines the level of participation by workers in public- and private-sector, employment-based pension or retirement plans. It begins with an overview of retirement plan types and participation in these types of plans and describes the data used in this study, along with their relative strengths and weaknesses. The report then explores retirement plan participation across U.S. geographical regions, including state-by-state comparisons.
Source: Ssrn.com, November 2013
Summary: Retirement income generated by private-sector retirement plans has become more prevalent -- not less prevalent -- since the passage of ERISA in 1974, and this is true across all income groups. In 2012, 32 percent of retirees received private-sector retirement plan income -- either directly or through a spouse -- compared with 21 percent in 1975. Among retirees with private-sector retirement plan income, the median received per person in 2012 was approximately $6,300, compared with about $4,800 in 1975 (in 2012 dollars). Further, the survey data used to analyze retiree income do not fully capture distributions from DC pension plans and IRAs, and thus, likely underestimate the increase in retirement plan income since ERISA.
Summary: The average 401k account balance fell 34.8 percent in 2008, then rose from 2009 to 2011. Overall, the average account balance increased at a compound annual average growth rate of 5.4 percent over the 2007-2011 period, to $94,482 at year-end 2011.
Summary: Providing adequate and secure income throughout retirement is the objective of a risk-managed defined contribution plan. According to this paper, the sweeping generalization that defined benefit plan designs provide benefits at lower cost to public employers than could a DC structure is simply incorrect. A best-practice DC plan can provide secure retirement income at equivalent cost to a DB plan.
Summary: Workplace retirement plan participants may be more open to plan reforms than 401k plan sponsors previously thought, according to this new study by Northern Trust. The report finds five areas where participant and plan sponsor views could lead to important changes in DC plans.
Summary: The intent of the survey is to understand the degree to which plan participants are concerned about the fact that advice offered by their plan provider may not be required to be in their best interest and whether they would support or oppose requirements to hold investment advice from plan providers to a higher standard. The survey also explores a variety of related issues.
Summary: The 2012 P&I/Towers Watson global 300 pension funds ranking is prepared using joint research by Pensions & Investments and Towers Watson and includes a ranking of sovereign funds. Some of the highlights include: Assets under management (AUM) of the world's largest pension funds totaled US$14.0 trillion in 2012; Funds AUM increased by 9.8% in 2012, compared to 1.9% in 2011; and, North America remained the largest region in terms of AUM, accounting for 40.5% of the total worldwide assets.
Summary: In examining plan sponsors' goals and actions, survey found that plan sponsors are taking steps to strengthen their DC plans and provide better retirement outcomes for their employees. At the same time, there are addressable issues that may be impeding progress toward plan objectives, as well as a need for a closer alignment between plan sponsors' evolving goals and the strategies currently in place to achieve them.
Summary: This is a summary of Fidelity's 4th annual survey of plan sponsors. It was an online survey of 937 plan sponsors who use a wide variety of recordkeepers. Responses from plan sizes with 25 to 10,000 participants. A number of concerns were raised including confidence about fiduciary responsibilities, retirement readiness of employees, want a better understanding of how well the plan is working for employees, and key considerations for advisors.
Summary: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies just released this survey of more than 3,650 full- and part-time workers, which found that retirement confidence is on the rise in 2013 amid signs of economic recovery. Fifty-five percent of workers are "somewhat" or "very confident" about retirement, representing an increase from 51 percent reported in 2012. This is still, however, four points below the 2007 confidence level of 59 percent.
Summary: Morningstar released its Target-Date Series Research Paper: 2013 Industry Survey. As the target-date industry continues to mature, it is displaying both predictable and surprising attributes. Predictably, its organic growth rate is slowing as target-date series have become established fixtures in defined-contribution plans. Fees in the series continue to fall as assets flow in, and post-2008 returns have been strong, reflecting broad market trends.
Summary: Kravitz released the 2013 National Cash Balance Research Report, showing a 500% increase in new plans over the decade and a 12% increase for the most recent year. The growth of Cash Balance Plans continues to surpass all other sectors of the retirement plan market, including 401k plans, which declined 3% in the same period.
Summary: Australia's retirement income system is regarded by some as among the best in the world and is often pointed to as a model for 401k reforms. It has achieved high individual saving rates and broad coverage at reasonably low cost to the government, but the Australia system does have shortcomings. This white paper provides an overview of the system and recent reforms. The paper concludes that the recent reforms should strengthen Australia's system and provide lessons to other nations that increasingly depend on 401k-type individual accounts.
Summary: PIMCO's DC Practice has prepared the 2013 Defined Contribution Consulting Support and Trends Survey to help understand the breadth of views and specific consulting services available within the DC marketplace. The 2013 survey captures data, trends and opinions from 51 consulting firms across the U.S. which serve over 6,500 clients with aggregate DC assets in excess of $2.4 trillion.
Summary: The federal government provides generous tax subsidies for retirement saving in 401ks and IRAs. The subsidies are designed to increase household saving and retirement income security, important national goals. Given the nation's severe budgetary pressures, it is critical to know how effective these subsidies are in raising household saving and whether other approaches would be more cost-effective.
Summary: 401k savers continued to seek diversified portfolios in 2011, with 61 percent of 401k participants' assets invested in equity securities and 34 percent in fixed-income securities, on average, according to the annual update of a joint study released today by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Investment Company Institute.
Summary: Nearly 80% of the more than 6,000 companies that participated in the 2012 Plansponsor Defined Contribution Survey doubt their employees will achieve retirement goals by age 65. A large number of company respondents indicate a decline in satisfaction with 401k providers.
Source: 401khelpcenter.com, November 2012
Summary: More people are working beyond the usual age for retirement; they are taking up part-time jobs, combining work with leisure, even creating second careers for themselves. This 36 page report looks at how employers, employees and governments are having to adapt to new realities, and setting out some recommendations for the way ahead.
Summary: The Plan Sponsor Council of America's 55th Annual Survey of Profit Sharing and 401k Plans reports on the 2011 plan-year experience of 840 plans with 10.3 million participants and $753 billion in plan assets. The survey contains 156 tables of data on important topics. This article reviews the study highlights.
Source: Plan Sponsor Council of America, October 2012
Summary: Financial Finesse has announced the release of its second annual research report on the state of U.S. employee retirement preparedness. The report found that employees are increasing their focus on retirement planning, but employees are still behind where they need to be in order to retire comfortably at their desired retirement age.
Source: Financial Finesse, October 2012
Summary: This GAO report recommends that the DOL lead an effort to collect data on the employers that participate in MEPs. GAO also recommends that Labor and IRS formalize their coordination with regard to statutory interpretation efforts with respect to MEPs. Furthermore, Labor and IRS should jointly develop guidance on the establishment and operation of MEPs.
Summary: This study assesses the status of American families' accumulations in individual account retirement plans, both through the incidence of ownership and the average amounts accumulated. The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the Federal Reserve Board's triennial survey of wealth, is the basis for this study.
Summary: Participants prefer more pro-active steps to increase their retirement readiness and provide them with more analysis, solutions and a better understanding of the tools and guidance the plan provider has to help them optimize the use of their retirement plan.
Source: 401khelpcenter.com, October 2012
Summary: The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies in collaboration with AEGON and Cicero Consulting conducted this study to contribute to a common understanding among eight European countries and the United States of what measures can be taken by individuals, employers and governments to create a new blueprint for modern retirement. This research outlines the emergence of possible future trends and opportunities regarding aging populations and global financial uncertainty.
Summary: This report presents the findings of Mohler, Nixon & Williams' 2012 Northern California 401k Plan Survey. The survey offers a regional perspective of 401k plans, and recent trends. The survey was conducted in March 2012, with over 100 Northern California plan sponsors and benefit plan managers participating. The respondents were asked about their current plan offerings and structure, and recent and expected changes.
Source: Mohler, Nixon & Williams (Free Registration May Be Required), May 2012.
Summary: The survey is conducted through an independent research firm and the data represents employees of different age groups and employers of various sizes. In addition to the findings on various retirement issues, the survey provides an in-depth segmentation and comparison analysis based on company size, gender and age groups.
Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, May 2012
Summary: Mesirow Financial's Retirement Plan Advisory practice released this report. The results outline initiatives plan sponsors are considering to keep their plans competitive while fulfilling their fiduciary duties. The survey addresses retirement plan design, fiduciary oversight options, employee education and fee disclosure requirements, among other topics.
Summary: Continued economic uncertainty has led all workers to dip into their retirement savings, but minorities have been the hardest hit, according to a new study from Ariel Education Initiative and Aon Hewitt. The Ariel/Aon Hewitt study, 401k Plans in Living Color II, examined the defined contribution plans of 60 large U.S. organizations, representing 2.4 million employees.
Summary: Americans' confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement is stagnant at historically low levels in the face of more immediate financial concerns about job uncertainty and debt, according to the 22nd annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS), the longest-running annual survey of its kind in the nation.
Summary: The 68-page Deloitte 401k Benchmarking Survey is a snapshot into the priorities and associated actions of plan sponsors. It offers a broad view of the priorities, policies, features, objectives and expectations of the diverse population of respondents.
Summary: This report is an update of EBRI and ICI's ongoing research into 401k plan participants' activity through year-end 2010. 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 2010; 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: This paper examines the impact of participant choice in 403(b) plans. It looks at the extent to which school district employees want choices in their 403(b) plans and whether providing those choices is beneficial to them.
Summary: Sponsors in all segments of the 403(b) market are looking to their providers as 403(b) partners and experts. Providers offering solutions to help ease plan administration and cost will have a competitive edge. Government regulation and more transparent fee reporting are driving both innovation and consolidation.
Source: 401khelpcenter.com, September 2011.
Summary: The 12th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey found that for the first time since the recession began, rising employer confidence is accompanied by an increase in enhancements to retirement benefits as well as reinstatement of benefits that had been suspended.
Summary: This 92 page report, now in its 10th edition, is widely used as a barometer of retirement planning trends. Along with a look at the overall patterns of Vanguard's three million-plus participants, How America Saves this year includes supplemental reports with analyses of participant behavior in the defined contribution retirement plans of eight specific industries.
Summary: This survey -- conducted among 4,080 American workers -- found that for many Americans, the foundation of their retirement strategy is simply to not retire or to work considerably longer than the traditional retirement age of 65. Overall, American workers' confidence in their ability to achieve a financially secure retirement is low.
Summary: This 40 page report find that instead of making fundamental adjustments to their spending and saving patterns in response to the decline in confidence, workers continue to change their expectations about how they will transition from work to retirement in what has been called an age of "the new normal."
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