Retirement saving at new high thanks to automatic enrollment

Automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans is helping Americans save for retirement in record numbers, a new study shows.

According to a Vanguard survey released Thursday, participation rates in 401(k) plans for which the asset management firm serves as record keeper have reached an all-time high of 83%. Vanguard’s annual report, “How America Saves,” also revealed that employers are increasingly bolstering retirement plans with personalized financial services such as advice.

Forty-one percent of all plans offered advisory services last year, according to the study, and that rose to 81% for plans with more than 5,000 employees. Altogether, nearly three in four plan participants now have access to advice, such as a robo-advisor or guidance from a certified financial planner, Vanguard found.

“Automatic solutions revolutionized retirement planning over the last decade. However, investment success depends not only on the funds you hold but also the advice you get on those funds. The next frontier of retirement savings will be advanced by personalized advice that helps investors reach their long-term goals,” Tim Buckley, Vanguard chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Elsewhere, the report showed that automatic enrollment removes barrier to entry for retirement savers. Nearly 58% of plans, and 76% of plans with at least 1,000 participants, have adopted this design, the report said.

Automation also helps retirement savers stay the course during market uncertainty. The study said nearly a quarter of participants saved at least 10% of their income for retirement and the average deferral rate hit a historic high of 7.4%.

Finally, the Vanguard report showed participant trading dramatically declining over the last 15 years, with just 6% of participants trading last year. This is likely attributable to the increased adoption of target-date funds and more retirement savers employing buy-and-hold strategies.

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