401(k) PLAN ADMINISTRATORS
In the summer of 2008, when it seemed workers had a pretty good excuse to scale back on their 401(k) contributions, many people were actually upping the ante and putting a greater share of their earnings into company-sponsored retirement plans.
Workers who participated in 401(k) plans in both 2007 and 2008 kicked up their contributions by 7 percent in 2008, according to data from Fidelity Investments. That was a notable increase in any year, let alone one in which major equity markets tumbled by almost 15 percent, real estate values plummeted, and the costs of gasoline and food reached all-time highs.
"It may sound counterintuitive," said Mike Doshier, a vice president in Fidelity’s retirement services business, "but people seem to have a better understanding of the value and importance of staying the course."
Fidelity canvassed its roughly 17,000 corporate defined-contribution clients, whose plans cover a combined 11.5 million workers, and found the average pretax contribution for ongoing 401(k) participants was $3,512 in the first six months of 2008, compared with $3,283 in the first half of 2007.
There are a number of reasons for the escalation in employee contributions, Doshier pointed out. For one, as corporations have moved away from defined-benefit pension plans and instead steered workers into 401(k)s, they have sweetened their matching contribution, which provides a greater incentive for workers to increase their individual contributions. At the same time, companies have begun automatically enrolling workers in 401(k) plans, while also automatically escalating and automatically investing workers’ contributions.
Finally, Doshier noted that older workers make up a larger portion of the 401(k) participant population, and as they inch toward retirement, many are now making catch-up contributions to shore up their savings. For 2008, 401(k) participants may contribute up to $15,500 to their 401(k) plans, but those who are 50 and older may contribute an additional $5,000.
To enlarge the view, click on the image below.
Adobe Acrobat Reader is required