The number of retirement savings plans that offer advice is increasing as more investors are saving for retirement, according to research released by Vanguard.

With the incorporation of auto enrollment and default investments moving more individuals into 401(k) savings plans, the number of participants in those plans has significantly increased, the company said.. Vanguard reported an 83% participation rate among retirement savings plans it provides recordkeeping services for, according to “How America Saves,” the Valley Forge, Pa.-based firm’s 22nd annual report that chronicles the actions of millions of American workers.

The report was created using data compiled from the 1,700 qualified plans, 1,400 clients, and nearly five million participants that Vanguard directly provides recordkeeping services for. The plans include 401(k) and 403(b) employee-contribution plans as well as an employer-contributory DC plan. 

With such an influx of new participants, plan sponsors are now turning to the next phase in retirement planning, which is advice, Vanguard said. The report found that last year 41% of all plans offered some form of advice. The percentage is 81% among plans with more than 5,000 employees.

Overall, that means that three out of four plan participants have access to advice, according to the study. The complexity and level of that advice can vary from self-advice such as a robo-advisor to getting help from a certified financial planner (CFP), said Colleen Jaconetti, senior manager at the Vanguard Investment Advisory Research Center.

“Auto enrollment and target date funds are great,” she said. “But there’s more out there that can help each investor have a more personalized experience and advice can add value there.”

The amount of advice a person will receive depends on the effort and information an individual is willing to provide, she explained. At Vanguard, participants who work with a Vanguard rep can obtain advice on any aspect of savings, the company said. However, there are limits to what they can execute, Jaconetti explained.

“At Vanguard, as much information as someone is willing to give, we can provide advice and recommendations to help them,” she said. “But the individual will have to go and act on it.”

The increased attention to advice is the next evolution of the retirement plan, she added. With so much attention on advice in 401(k) plans, Jaconetti said it is an opportunity for advisors to step in and show their value. 

“There is a need for more personalized advice for millions of participants,” she said. “People wouldn’t be adding advice to their plans if they didn’t see a need.”

Advisors can demonstrate their value by the personalization and the interactions they have with their clients, Jaconetti said. They can advise clients on how to save their money in a tax efficient manner and make investment decisions based on their individual retirement goals.

As the number of individuals participating in 401(k) plans continues to grow and as younger generations see the importance of saving early for retirement, the need for advisors will continue, she said.

“In the future, more Americans will be preparing and coming into retirement and that’s really where it can get more complex where advisors can add a lot of value,” she said. 

Other aspects of the study demonstrated the importance of advice while saving for retirement, in particular keeping assets where they are and not moving them around whenever the markets began to shift. Participant trading generally has declined significantly in the past 15 years, to the point where only 6% of participants traded last year, the report said.

The sharp decline can be attributed to the increased use of target date funds, which give investors a sense of a plan going forward. It is also a sign of advisors reassuring their clients to stay the course, according to Jaconetti.

“They’re helping investors stay committed to a long-term goal through good and bad markets,” she said. “Abandoning a well-thought-out plan can be very costly.”

Jaconetti was confident that the need for advice would only increase going forward and in the end it will help many individuals save for their retirement.

“More Americans will be prepared in the future so I think that the advice landscape will continue to get bigger through time as more people are responsible for funding their own retirement and investing in their own retirement and be more adequately prepared,” she said.