The more convenient an employer makes its retirement plan, the more employees are eager to join, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Plan Wellness Scorecard released Thursday.
Over the past year, companies embraced and promoted a culture that supports the financial well-being of their workers, and employees responded with increasing enrollment, participation and contributions, says Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
During 2015, total contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans increased by 14 percent and the number of employees with balances grew by 16 percent, the report says.
Roth 401(k)s saw particularly strong growth with the number of contributors increasing by 38 percent and the total contributions increasing by 32 percent. The option appeals especially to those 40 and younger who want to diversify their retirement accounts between pre-tax and post-tax contributions, the report says.
Health savings accounts also are growing in popularity. In 2015, the number of HSA accounts increased 47 percent, with total assets under management increasing 47 percent and average cash balances increasing 42 percent.
“Growth across almost all employee participation metrics is very promising. Partnering with employers, we see the impact that strategic plan design and employee engagement can have on improving retirement outcomes,” says Gary DeMaio, head of defined contribution product, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Employers are adding features to make it easier to enroll. Plans that have automatic enrollment of all employees, rather than just new hires, increased by 24 percent, the reports says. More employers also are combining automatic enrollment with automatic increases in contributions. Automatic enrollment plans with higher default contribution rates saw higher rates of participation, reaching as high as 88 percent for plans with a 10 percent default rate in 2015.
Both mobile and in-person options also increase participation. Group seminar meeting attendance increased 43 percent from 2014 to 2015, with the number of one-on-one meetings increasing 152 percent.
“Employers are seeking tools that not only provide personalized advice and guidance for employees, but also offer the convenience, flexibility and ease needed to attract and retain employees throughout the benefit plan process,” says Kim Kasin, financial guidance executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “This includes delivering a multichannel financial wellness program and offering a wide variety of investment types to appeal to employees and their diverse needs.”