Source: EBA Benefit News 

Benefit advisers and their employer clients hoping to help employees achieve retirement readiness should be paying attention to these top 401(k) plan trends for 2015, according to Robert Lawton of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants.

Stretch that employer match

A virtually no-cost way for employers to incent participants to contribute more is to stretch their matching contribution formulas, says Lawton. For years 50% of the first 6% was the most common matching formula. Leading edge employers have stretched their matching contributions to 25% of the first 12%, for example.

Expect this trend to continue as employers look for low cost ways to improve their 401(k) plans, Lawton says, adding that all that is required to make this change is a plan amendment and communication materials.

Re-enroll everyone every year

Plans that use auto enrollment, auto escalation and annual re-enrollment into target date funds have plan participation rates in the 90% range, says Lawton, adding that not only does automation work, but annual re-enrollments into target date funds works too. Participants can opt out of a re-enrollment, but Lawton says the vast majority do not. Just as auto enrollment has become commonplace in large plans, Lawton says to expect annual re-enrollment to become the norm in the next few years.

Use outcome based, online employee education

With every plan participant having unique retirement goals, employee education has become more personalized, says Lawton. It’s a trend he says will continue and also expects to see personalized education migrate to predominately online venues. When participants can view 5 to 7 minute learning videos online at their homes with their spouses, outcomes improve, he says. Most employers embrace this type of learning since participants are not pulled away from their jobs and employee education costs are less.

Add Roth 401(k) features

Since it is now possible to convert pre-tax 401(k) accounts into Roth 401(k) after-tax accounts, expect many more employers to offer Roth 401(k) contribution ability and an in-plan conversion feature, says Lawton. The cost of this change is a plan amendment and communication materials, he adds.

Employees paying more fees

A surprising 58% of plan sponsors pass on the record-keeping costs of their 401(k) plans to participants, according to a 2014 Towers Watson survey. Only 23% of surveyed employers pay the entire record-keeping cost. As employer cost pressures continue, Lawton says, expect more employers to pass on all plan related costs to participants.