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Retirement Doctor: How America Saves 2018

Oct 4, 2018 10:58:54 AM / by Mike Rogers

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Vanguard’s 17th edition of How America Saves 2018

Did you ever wonder how you compare to others? Everything you could ever want to know about 401(k) Plans but were afraid to ask can be found within this 100+ page fact-filled publication. While the data is solely coming from plans on Vanguard’s platform, the key highlights are consistent with what we have seen across similar type studies. The data set is quite robust consisting of 4.6 million participants in about 2,000 plans. The report reviews participant behavior within the plans that Vanguard provides services to. Here are a few of the highlights:

Target Date Strategies: The use of target date strategies continues to grow.  Nine out of 10 plan sponsors offered TDFs at year-end 2017, up more than 50% from 10 years ago. 97% of all Vanguard participants are offered TDFs, while 75% of all participants use these funds. 51% of participants have their entire account invested in a single target date fund. The qualified default investment alternative (QDIA) regulation continues to influence adoption of TDFs. However, voluntary choice remains important since half of single target date investors choose TDFs on their own.  

Automatic Saving Features: Automatic enrollment has tripled since year-end 2017. At year-end 2017, 46% of Vanguard plans had adopted automatic enrollment. Two-thirds of auto enrollment plans have implemented auto deferral rate increases. More plans are applying this to all employees versus just new hires. 

Plan Participation Rate: In 2017, Vanguard’s plan participation rate was estimated at 81%, unchanged from 2016. Plans with automatic enrollment have a 92% participation rate versus just 57% for plans with voluntary enrollment. 

Savings Rates: The average Vanguard participant deferral rate remains unchanged from 2016 at 6.8%. The median deferral rate is 6% which has been the same for as long as they have been tracking this metric. Primarily due to the most common matching formula being 50% of 6% of pay. Roth 401(k) contribution adoption increased in 2017 as the feature was adopted by 68% of Vanguard plans and 12% of participants within these plans elected the option. Only 13% of participants save the maximum allowed, including catch-up contributions if applicable. 

Loan Activity: Loan activity was generally flat for the year with 15% of participants having a loan outstanding equating to about 1% of aggregate plan assets. The percent of participants that had an outstanding loan is down from 18% in 2013.

Index Investing: In 2017, 61% of Vanguard plans offered a set of options providing an index core. Over the past decade, the number of plans offering an index core has grown by 75%. Counting passive target-date investments, 8 in 10 participants hold index equity options.

Average Account Balance: At year-end 2017, the average account balance for participants was $103,866 while the median balance was $23,331. The large divergence is due to a small number of very large accounts that dramatically raised the average above the median. The average and median account balances in 2017 rose by 8% and 7%, respectively, versus the prior year. Automatic enrollment does initially drive down the balance numbers for new participants. This does not factor in outside investments that the participants may hold in other investment or 401(k) accounts.

Participant Trading: During 2017, only 8% of participants traded within their accounts, while 92% did not initiate any exchanges. Vanguard has seen a decline in participant trading over the last decade, partly due to the growth in target date fund adoption by plan participants. 

Click here if you would like to learn more about this study. Vanguard also provides a Small Business addition of the study via their partnership with Ascensus. This study is specifically for plans under $20 million in assets. Click Small Business Addition for the report.

In addition, Vanguard makes available a plan comparison tool. Plan Comparison Tool

If you would like to discuss the results or work with the Filice team to more specifically benchmark your plan, please let us know.

Topics: Fees, ERISA, best practices, 401(k) plan, 401(k), 401(k) plan sponsor, Audit

Mike Rogers

Written by Mike Rogers

Mike is an industry veteran with 30 years of experience in every aspect of retirement planning, including registered investment advisory, third party administration, and record keeping. His list of credentials is as extensive as it is impressive: Qualified Pension Administrator (QPA), Qualified 401K Administrator (QKA), Certified Pension Consultant (CPC), Qualified Pension Financial Consultant (QPFC), Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®), Tax Exempt and Governmental Plan Consultant (TGPC), Certified Behavioral Finance Analyst (CBFA), Professional Plan Consultant (PPC), Global Fiduciary Strategist (GFS). Mike is also a former member of the Schwab SRT Technologies Advisory Board, Schwab TPA Advisory Board, and Fidelity/IBG Advisory Board.

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