Study Reveals Better DC Plan Designs

Aon Hewitt finds DC plan sponsors are beefing up plan features to improve participant outcomes.

U.S. employers are taking steps to help workers save more and improve their long-term financial outlook, according to a survey from Aon Hewitt.

The survey of more than 360 employers, representing more than 10 million employees, found 42% of defined contribution (DC) plan sponsors match employee deferrals dollar for dollar, up from 31% in 2013. Before 2013, 50 cents per $1 was the most common formula.

DC plan sponsors who automatically enroll new hires are defaulting employee contributions at a higher rate. Fifty-two percent automatically enroll workers at a savings rate of 4% or more, up from 39% of employers in 2013. Fifty-one percent default workers at or above the company match threshold, nearly 10 percentage points higher than in 2013.

Most plan sponsors only automatically enroll new hires, but many are taking action to ensure more workers participate in the plan. Currently, 16% of sponsors automatically enroll all eligible employees (also called “back-sweeping”) on an ongoing (annual) or one-time basis—double the percentage that did so in 2013.   

“With more workers falling short of their retirement savings needs, employers are being more aggressive about making plan design changes that will help workers close the savings gap,” says Rob Austin, director of Retirement Research at Aon Hewitt. “While these tweaks to the plan may seem small, they can have a profound impact on workers’ ultimate retirement wealth.”

Models from Aon Hewitt find increasing employer match to a dollar-for-dollar formula can boost participants’ savings by up to $85,000. Auto-enrolling at 6% can boost savings by up to $357,000 and automatically escalating employee deferrals can result in a $275,000-boost. More data is here.   

Aon Hewitt also found DC plan participation and account balances are at an all-time high, at an average 79% and $100,320, respectively. The average savings rate increased to 7.6%. More results from the 2015 Trends & Experience in DC Plans Survey are here.