Automatic for the People
By Bill Olson, Chief Marketing Officer for United Benefit Advisors
With apologies to the band R.E.M., this article is not about their music, nor their album, but about how automatic enrollment has significantly helped people. Think of all the payments you currently have automated. You probably have automatic deposit of your paycheck, automatic bill pay for your utilities and other monthly bills, and maybe even a recurring automatic payment and delivery of pet food from Amazon. Now, think of something that’s important that you wish you could automate. This is not the time to mention your daily fix of Starbucks, but about saving enough money for retirement.
There are families that have a similar system where they placed a large jar in the kitchen. Everyone, kids included, would put their spare change in the jar every day. At the end of the month, the family would use that accumulated money in a fun way. An article titled, “Automation Making Huge Retirement Plan Impact,” in Employee Benefit News references how a defined contribution plan provides an excellent way for employees to seamlessly save money for retirement. As employees started joining the plan, with a typical contribution of 10 percent or higher, including employer matching, participation increased nearly 20 percent in the company’s retirement benefit according to the article. This was up more than seven percent from just five years ago. Looking at this by generation, millennials are used to automation and, consequently, are reaping huge rewards from this type of plan.
However, all age groups benefit and a company can modify the plan to increase participation. For example, if a company has a matching rate of 50 cents on the first three percent to 25 cents on the first six percent, it automatically gets employees saving an additional three percent they wouldn’t normally save. Another way is to have annual automatic increases in contributions. A bump of a percentage point every year up to a maximum rate will help employees the earlier they start.
Of course, there should always be an opt-out option for people who don’t want to have the contribution rate increased, have a separate retirement plan, or simply don’t want to save using the company plan.