DC Plan Sponsors Feel Responsible for Retirement Readiness

Sixty-one percent of employers now analyze the percentage of their employees on track to replace 80% or more of their final salary in retirement, up from 44% in 2013, according to J.P. Morgan.

Defined contribution plan sponsors are beginning to understand the importance of running their plans in a robust manner to get people prepared to retire with adequate income, J.P. Morgan says in a new report, “Progress Never Stops: How plan sponsors are sharpening their focus to strengthen plans and improve outcomes.”

When DC plans were first introduced 30 years ago, J.P. Morgan says, sponsors simply viewed them as vehicles to attract and retain workers. Today, plan sponsors increasingly feel responsible for getting their workers retirement ready, the investment firm says.

According to the report, 85% of large plans and 65% of plans overall automatically enroll their workers into the plan. Seventy-seven percent of large plans automatically escalate deferral rates. This is 50% among plans of all sizes. Eighty percent of large plans offer target-date funds (TDFs) on their investment menus; this is 62% among all plans. Ninety-three percent of large plans with qualified default investment alternatives (QDIAs) use TDFs as the QDIA, and 78% of all plans with QDIAs use TDFs as the QDIA. However, only 20% of large plans conduct re-enrollments, and a mere 13% of plans of all sizes do so.

Eighty-two percent of sponsors today say they feel a “very high” or “somewhat high” sense of responsibility for their employees’ financial wellness, up from 59% in 2013. Today, 82% of employers view their retirement plan as a tool to ensure employees have a financially secure retirement, up from 77% in 2013. Furthermore, 61% of employers now analyze the percentage of their employees on track to replace 80% or more of their final salary in retirement, up from 44% in 2013. In addition, 23% of employers say that getting the maximum number of participants to retire with adequate income is important, more than double than the percentage who said so in 2013.

NEXT: Areas for Improvement

J.P. Morgan says there are areas where plan sponsors can improve their plans. While 54% of sponsors believe their participants should be saving 10% of their salary or more, only 23% say their average savings rate is at that level. Only 56% of sponsors are confident their participants have invested their assets appropriately, and only 43% of sponsors know that they are a fiduciary.

“Automatic features, if not carefully implemented, may have unintended consequences,” J.P. Morgan says. “Automatically enrolling participants at too low a contribution rate, especially if not coupled with an appropriate automatic contribution escalation schedule, could result in undesirable retirement outcomes. Automatic contribution escalation schedules that increase too slowly or are capped at too low a rate may lead some participants to assume they are saving adequately when they are not.”

J.P. Morgan found that 31% of employers automatically defer workers’ contributions at 3%, and 65% use a deferral rate of 6% or less. J.P. Morgan concludes by saying that further improvements to DC plans are necessary.

The “Progress Never Stops” report can be downloaded here.