When we think about the important goals we've reached in our lives, like graduating from college or achieving a career milestone, the journey likely took time, perseverance, and a whole lot of hard work. But the payoffs in the end are the rewards we've earned and the sense of pride we feel in the accomplishment.
Saving for retirement is like this too, and the need to participate as early in life as possible is clear. As is the need to save at a high enough rate to meet real income needs later in life.
An important way to help your employees make real progress for themselves is to offer auto-enrollment and auto-escalation features in your 401(k) plan. Both can positively influence retirement outcomes. But even if your plan includes these features, there may be reason to review them to make sure they're optimized.
That's because auto-enrollment is often introduced only to your new employees. That misses a huge opportunity to include existing workers who could also be participating. Statistics tell us that even if they're offered the choice to opt-out, most don't and stay the course. That means even without much effort on their own, they are doing something important to contribute to their future financial success.
The other automatic feature is auto-escalation. It automatically raises employee contribution rates a little each year until each employee reaches their target savings rate. This is really important since auto-enrollment typically starts at a savings rate of 3 or 4% which is a good start, but is too low for most people to accumulate what they need in retirement. Auto-escalation often increases contribution by 1% each year until the person is contributing 8 to 10%.
An important side benefit of auto-enrollment and auto-escalation is that more employees contributing at higher rates can help your plan pass non-discrimination tests and give owners a better likelihood of maximizing their annual contributions, too. Although automatic features aren't right for every plan, and every business, we recommend you consider adding them.