BofA Merrill Lynch: Retirement Participants Boost Savings

401(k) participants took positive savings actions within their retirement savings plans in Q4 and throughout 2009, according to the latest quarterly report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Among the plans that the company serves, 721,000 employees took a positive savings action in their 401(k) plans in 2009. Of all participants who have taken some type of savings action in 2009, 70% started or increased saving versus 30% who stopped or decreased saving, the report said.

In addition, for the quarter, 80% of plan participants who changed their savings rate in Q4 chose to increase savings (compared to 64% in Q3, and 63% in Q2). The number of participants who stopped contributing to their plans in Q4 was 53% lower than in Q3, and the number of participants who decreased their contribution in Q4 was 33% lower than in Q3.

The analysis also found that plan sponsors are taking positive actions to help employees with their retirement savings goals. Among plan sponsors the company serves, there was a 14% increase in the use of automatic enrollment, and a 23% increase in the use of automatic increase.

Additionally, there was a 20% increase in plan usage of the firm’s Advice Access service, which helps participants determine the likelihood they will reach their retirement savings goals.

There was a significant increase in plan participant interest and use of Advice Access—a 52% increase in participants accessing advice, and a 43% increase in participants receiving specific advice within their 401(k) accounts.

The report is based on the activities of more than 1.5 million participants across more than 1,500 plan sponsor clients of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.