Report Shows Record-High Participation in Defined Contribution Plans

Lincolnshire, Ill. — July 1

A new report from global talent consultancy Aon Hewitt shows that employee participation in company defined contribution (DC) plans is at an all-time high and that DC plan balances have reached pre-recession levels.

However, Aon Hewitt’s analysis also shows employee savings rates remain flat, suggesting more work is needed to continue to help workers achieve retirement security.

Aon Hewitt’s analysis of more than 140 defined contribution plans representing 3.5 million eligible employees found that participation rates in DC plans have reached their highest levels since Aon Hewitt began tracking data in 2002. On average, 78 percent of employees participated in a DC plan in 2012, up from 75 percent in 2011 and 68 percent in 2002.

Aon Hewitt’s report also shows that as the markets have rebounded average DC plan balances have reached their highest levels since 2006. The average total plan balance in 2012 was $81,240, up significantly from $57,150 in 2008.

According to Aon Hewitt, the rise in participation rates is largely driven by an increase in the number of employers that automatically enroll employees in their DC plans. Today, 59 percent of employers automatically enroll employees in their company DC plan, compared to just 34 percent in 2007. On average, participants subject to automatic enrollment had a participation rate of 81 percent — nearly 20 percentage points higher than those without automatic enrollment.

Moreover, Aon Hewitt’s study shows employees continue to save at rates insufficient to support adequate long term savings goals. The average before-tax contribution rate remained flat from 2011 at 7.3 percent of pay. Most concerning, workers are not saving enough to take advantage of company matching dollars. Nearly 28 percent of employees contributed below the company match threshold, potentially sacrificing tens of thousands of dollars in retirement savings over the course of a person’s career.

Source: Aon plc