U.S workers still proving reluctant to save for their retirement

2006

Despite continued efforts to educate employees on the importance of saving for retirement, many U.S companies do not feel workers are stepping up to the challenge, according to a new study.

The research by HR consultancy Hewitt Associates has also found an increasing number of companies putting in place automatic enrolment schemes.

These are designed to get around the "lethargy factor" and force employees who genuinely do not want to pay actively to opt out.

The study of more than 220 large U.S. companies found just six per cent were confident their employees would take accountability for their own retirement future this year, down from 12 per cent in 2005.

In order to encourage workers to take control of their retirement savings, 23 per cent of companies said they were very likely to add automatic enrolment features in their plans by the end of the year.

A total of 13 per cent were "very likely" to add contribution escalation features and one in five companies planned to add automatic rebalancing of accounts.

"Automated features change the equation so that inertia around retirement saving and investing works in employees' favour," said Lori Lucas, director of participant research at Hewitt Associates.

One bit of good news was that, according to Hewitt's study, the majority of companies offering pension plans said they were unlikely to make changes to them in 2006.

But 15 per cent said they were very likely to close participation to new employees, six per cent said they were very likely to freeze accruals, and five percent were very likely to change the design of their pension plan.

In addition to automating pension plans, many companies were continuing to educate workers on the value of saving this year.

The majority of companies said they were somewhat or very likely to focus on making sure their employees understood how their plan worked and the value of it.

Nearly two-thirds said they were "somewhat or very likely" to encourage long-term saving by educating workers on the advantages of preserving their retirement wealth when leaving the company.

In addition, 16 per cent said they were very likely to add online third-party investment advisory services to employees, enabling them to tap into financial experts who could assist them with retirement saving and planning.