Workers Becoming Enthusiastic About Auto-Savings Programs

Nearly half (48%) of workers agree that employees should be automatically enrolled in their employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement plan with a standard savings rate, according to the latest Principal Financial Well-Being Index.

For workers in the survey who elect not to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, 57% said it is mainly because they lack financial resources to do so. Another 15% indicated they are not eligible for their plan, and 13% said they are too uncomfortable about investing.

Among those workers whose employer does not offer access to a retirement plan, one out of five (21%) said they are not saving at all for retirement, and nearly half (47%) indicated they are using their checking and/or savings account as a means of saving for retirement.

In addition to interest in automatic programs increasing, the uptake of lifecycle/target-date funds also continues to grow. Nearly one-fourth (24%) of those workers who indicated they prefer to have someone manage their funds for them, said they would select a lifecycle/target-date fund that is handled by a fund manager based upon their estimated retirement year.

Concerns About Debt

The Principal found nearly half of respondents (49%) listed job security as being most important to them, followed by long-term financial security (37%), and challenging work (14%). The index revealed that more than two-thirds of workers (67%) are very concerned about their long-term financial security. Sixty percent of workers expressed concern about their ability to save for retirement, while nearly half expressed concern about even being able to cover monthly expenses (49%) and reduce credit card debt or pay off short-term debt (41%).

Concern about credit card or short-term debt is also seen when workers discuss what to do with their income tax refund. Most workers (83%) do expect income tax refunds and nearly half of workers (45%) said they plan to use the proceeds to pay down or pay off short-term debt; 40% indicated they plan to save or invest the refund; and 22% said they will pay down or pay off longer-term debt. Only six percent of workers indicated they would splurge on big-ticket items.

Significantly fewer retirees (46%) expect a refund this year, the press release said. Although the same number of retirees plan to save or invest their refund (40%), only 16% plan to pay down or pay off short-term debt, and 22% plan to pay off longer-term debt.

This Principal Financial Well-Being Index survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Principal Financial Group between January 28 and February 3, 2008, among 1,316 employees and 589 retirees.