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Researchers : Retirement Savings: Automatic Enrollment Shows Promise for Some Workers, but Proposals to Broaden Retirement Savings for Other Workers Could Face Challenges
Complete Description:To foster greater participation among workers who have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, Congress included provisions that facilitate plan sponsors’ adoption of automatic enrollment policies in the Pension Protection Act of 2006. To foster greater retirement savings among workers who do not have access to an employer-sponsored plan, proposals have been made at the federal level for an “automatic IRA” and at the state level for state-based programs. GAO was asked to determine (1) what is known about the effect of automatic enrollment policies among the nation’s 401(k) plans, and the extent of and future prospect for such policies; and (2) the potential benefits and limitations of automatic IRA proposals and state-assisted retirement savings proposals. To answer these questions, GAO reviewed available reports and data, and interviewed plan sponsors, industry groups, investment professionals, and relevant federal agencies. Automatic enrollment appears to significantly increase participation in 401(k) plans according to existing studies, but may not be suitable for all plan sponsors, such as those with a high-turnover workforce. Further, some data show that while automatic escalation policies—which automatically increase saving rates over time—are increasingly common, they lag behind adoption of automatic enrollment. In combination with low initial contribution rates, this could depress savings for some workers. Also, the emergence of target-date funds raises questions in light of the substantial losses such funds experienced in the past year. Other proposals to expand the portion of the workforce saving for retirement could face challenges. Under a federally mandated automatic IRA, certain employers could be required to enroll eligible employees in payroll-deduction IRAs, unless the worker specifically opted out. Such a proposal faces uncertainty about the extent to which it would help low-income workers accumulate significant retirement savings. Proposals for state-assisted retirement savings programs could raise coverage and, ultimately, savingsbut face uncertainty about employer and worker participation levels, as well as legal and regulatory issues.
Date Published:Thursday, October 1, 2009
Funding Agency: US General Accountability Office
Type: Report;
Source: Focus groups and/or interviews; Literature review;
Language: English
Audience: Researcher