401(k) plans have become Americans’ chief retirement savings vehicles. And there’s a lot to like about them—employer matches, tax breaks and loans, not to mention the convenience of an automatic, semiweekly investment.
But how many employees actually take advantage of defined contribution plans, and what else do we know about these investors?
Findings from a new LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute consumer study reveal insights into defined contribution and benefit plans in the workplace, clearing up issues like employee participation, attitudes, risk tolerance, and knowledge.
The 2014 survey has found that, among private-sector employees who are offered a DC plan at work, 79 percent participate, up two percentage points from 2013. Eighty percent of public-sector employees eligible for a DC plan participate, up from 79 percent a year earlier.
The research also reveals a continued decline of defined benefits in the private sector: in 2014, just 16 percent of employers offered them.
While 401(k)s are wildly popular, over 40 percent of employees eligible for them at work are also saving for retirement outside of work. But retirement doesn’t always mean what it traditionally implies: a third of private-sector employees say they plan to work full-time or part-time after they “retire.”
While DC participation rates remain high, not all of the other findings are as good, and employees acknowledge they’re not as informed about investing and finances as they should be. In the public sector, for example, just seven percent feel very knowledgeable about their investments. And few are very confident that they are saving enough to last through their retirement years. And knowledge is lacking in the private sector as well, where 37 percent of respondents say they are not very or not at all confident about investments or financial products.
Many of these same employees recognize that financial services professionals provide a valuable service: more than half of public-sector employees, and about half of private-sector employees, agree or strongly agree that financial representatives provide value beyond what they could achieve on their own.
This means there is significant opportunity for financial professionals to have conversations with employees who aren’t as aware of money matters as they’d like to be. As our prior research has also indicated, retirement readiness and security can improve with more financial education and a little outreach.
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