Three-Quarters of Employers Have Not Touched Their 401(k) Match

March 17, 2009 ( - While news about employers suspending their 401(k) match has become more frequent in recent months, a new survey by two workplace benefits groups found 74% of participating firms haven't touched their match.

Ironically, given the match suspension publicity, slightly more employers reported having a match in 2008 (94%) compared to 93% when the survey was first conducted in 2002, according to a news release.

The joint survey by WorldatWork and the American Benefits Council also found that 15% have either increased or are thinking about upping their match, 8% have either decreased or are thinking about decreasing the 401(k) match, and 3% reported eliminating the match.

“These statistics reflect that employers are clearly committed to providing retirement savings opportunities to their workers, even in tough economic times,” said Cara Welch, public policy director for WorldatWork, in the news release. “401(k) plans serve a wide range of employers and a wide range of employees. Additional reform should encourage and build on this commitment and avoid creating new obstacles to plan sponsorship.”

According to the announcement, the most common match is 3% to 4% of a participant’s pay while the most common employee contribution is 5% to 7% per paycheck.

Some 49% of companies surveyed also report that employees are increasingly taking loans from their retirement accounts.

According to the survey, more than nine out of ten U.S. companies offer an employee 401(k) plan. In addition, despite the widely reported drop in account balances, two-thirds (66 %) of organizations indicated that at least 70% of eligible employees participated in those 401(k) plans in 2008.

The survey was conducted in December 2008. Surveys were sent electronically to a random representative sample of 4,938 U.S. WorldatWork members. A total of 505 members participated in the survey during a two-week period.

Earlier studies mirrored the latest survey's results. A study released in February found 73% of plan sponsors said they planned to keep their hands off their 401(k) match (See 73% of DC Sponsors Say No 2009 Match Changes ).

A poll released in December 2008 found 83% of sponsors did not expect to change their match (See 83% of Employers Surveyed do not Expect Employer Contribution Changes ).

A PLANSPONSOR Webinar held last week explored the ways sponsors and their advisers could look for other potential cost-cutting areas before changing the match (See What to Consider Before Cutting the Match ).

Finally, a recent PLANSPONSOR NewsDash survey found nearly two-thirds of respondents said they had not changed their match. However, an earlier version of the NewsDash poll taken in November found 16% had made no changes yet; that number dropped to 12.4% for the lastest survey (See SURVEY SAYS - Changed Your Mind About the Match? ).