Fidelity Reports Employers Restoring Match Contributions

November 19, 2009 ( – A Fidelity analysis of employer and employee actions during the third quarter of 2009 in defined contribution plans it recordkeeps revealed that of the 8% of companies that either reduced or suspended their company match earlier this year, many are now reinstating matching programs as the economy begins to show signs of recovery.

Of the plan sponsors that either lowered or suspended their match, 27% have already reinstated the match or say they plan to reinstate it in 2010, according to a press release. This trend is especially true with larger plans of 5,000 participants or more, with 44% of those employers having already reinstated their match or planning to in the next year.

The announcement said a review of deferral rates in the first quarter of 2009 showed that in plans where the company match was suspended, participants were nearly twice as likely to decrease their deferral rates. In Fidelity recordkept plans with a company match suspension, 11% of active participants decreased their deferral rates versus only 6% of active participants in plans where there were no changes made to the company matches during the same period.

The Fidelity review also found that as equity markets continued to rally in the third quarter, the average 401(k) account balance rose nearly 13% to $60,700 from the end of quarter two, and increased 28% from the end of the first quarter low of $47,500. The two consecutive quarters of gains in the equity markets also had a positive impact on the longer-term investment returns for 401(k) participants.

Using a personal rate of return (PRR) based on a calculation of an account’s investment time-weighted performance during a given period of time, excluding contributions, withdrawals, loans, and certain other types of account activity made either by the participant or plan sponsor, Fidelity found that as of September 30, 2009, the median one-year PRR for participants was a positive 0.4%. Over the past five and 10 years, participants had annualized median PRRs of 3.2% and 1.9%, respectively.

The Fidelity data is based on accounts of more than 11 million participants in the more than 17,000 plans.