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Workers Catch On: They're on Their Own for Retirement

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- This isn't your father's pension plan -- or 401(k), for that matter.

That's what workers are hearing from their employers, and why they increasingly believe they are on their own when it comes to managing company-sponsored retirement plans.

Financial Finesse, a workplace financial wellness services firm in El Segundo, Calif., says it has seen a 166% increase in log-ins from workers looking for financial advice in the past four years and a 73% increase in return visitors.

The financial health of millions of Americans could rely on becoming more financially literate; 88 million rely on a defined-benefit retirement plan, according to the American Benefits Council, of which there are 638,390 active in U.S. companies today; 513,000 of those are 401(k)s.

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Financial risk is an important topic for workers, as 47% of plan participants surveyed said they have taken a risk tolerance test to assess their own ability to save and invest money, while 36% rebalanced their retirement plans last year -- a sure sign they're taking direct ownership of their retirement plans.

"Society as a whole is beginning to put more emphasis on financial security and financial education," says Liz Davidson, chief executive at Financial Finesse. "We're seeing more and more providers of these types of services come into the marketplace, and the number of employers implementing workplace financial wellness programs is rising significantly." The fact that employees are demanding more of these programs is the result of a "financial awakening" on the part of workers, who are taking matters into their own hands with 401(k) plans, she adds.

Whether employers are engaged is unclear. Financial Finesse cites separate studies from AON/Hewitt showing companies are eager to help their employees learn about savings and investing, but only about a third have implemented financial training/studies programs for their staffers.

Consequently, any steps workers can take to learn more about retirement plans (by attending seminars or reading books and online content geared toward investing) can translate into more knowledge -- and more money saved -- on employee long-term savings programs.

They may not have a choice.

"Employees are adapting en masse to a new 'free agent' economy where they must take responsibility for their own financial security rather than relying on financial support from their employers or the government," says Greg Ward, Financial Finesse's Think Tank director.

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