If you’re like me, you have no interest in foolishly looking at the dwindling numbers in your retirement plan. Luckily, I’m decades away from retirement and can afford occasional market volatility. My initial concern during this crunch, however, wasn't the fluctuating values in our nest eggs. Instead, my worry was that employers might draw back from automatic enrollment programs, and that new employees might consider opting out of plans more frequently. Not so, according to people smarter than myself. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, not only has the number of companies automatically enrolling employees in retirement plans doubled, but there shouldn’t be much cause for concern that, despite what looks like prolonged doom and gloom for our economy, companies may find auto-enrollment less attractive.
For behavioral economists (and their many fans), this probably comes as no surprise—default options work. What the article argues and suggests by its title, however, is that automatic enrollment (despite its increasing popularity) is insufficient in creating a robust nest egg at current match rates. Likely true, though the Tribune makes it seem as though auto-enrollment is a static business decision by saying that it “may create a false sense of security and discourage workers from putting more away.”
A false sense of security is an issue, of course, but I would argue that a balance of $0.00 in an employer-sponsored plan is far, far riskier.
The real fix lies in automatic escalation—the next generation of automatic enrollment.