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Employers Are Divided Over Adequacy of 401(k)s

June 8, 2009
Related Topics: Retirement/Pensions, Workforce Planning, Latest News
Employers are evenly split between those who say their 401(k) plans can provide adequate retirement savings for employees and those who say they can’t or are unsure, according to a Mercer survey.

Also, 68 percent of the 180 employers offering 401(k) plans that were surveyed said achieving adequate retirement savings for employees is a shared responsibility between employers and employees, according to a Mercer news release about the survey results.

Of employers with defined-benefit plans open to new employers, 81 percent believe achieving adequate savings is a shared responsibility, and 15 percent believe it’s predominantly the employer’s responsibility.

Just over half (53 percent) of employers that have suspended matching contributions to their 401(k) believe planning an adequate savings is a shared responsibility.

All employers surveyed named a variety of obstacles to employees reaching their retirement income objectives, with 38 percent citing low participation in retirement savings plans; 32 percent citing inadequate savings rate; 17 percent, volatile markets; 6 percent, poor investment decisions; 4 percent, borrowing from retirement savings; 2 percent, cash-out at termination of the plan; and 1 percent, citing that accounts are spent too quickly in retirement.

“Some 35 years after the enactment of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and its subsequent amendments and associated regulations, Americans may have no more secure a retirement future than in 1974,” Amy Reynolds, a Mercer principal and defined-contribution retirement consultant, said in the Mercer news release.

“Today’s employers are increasingly relying on employee savings plans, such as the 401(k), as the foundation for their workers’ retirement income—yet recent economic pressures underscore the weakness of this approach.”

Filed by Timothy Inklebarger of Pensions & Investments, a sister publication of Workforce Management To comment, e-mail

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