Companies Stand Pat on Retirement Plans - TheStreet

Companies Stand Pat on Retirement Plans

Corporate America expects finances to improve, though they're not willing to boost retirement plans.
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BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Despite optimism about the economic recovery, many companies are still reluctant to expand or make significant changes to their retirement plans.

That was the conclusion drawn as part of the 11th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey. The results were culled from a sample of 601 U.S. employers and based on interviews made from Dec. 1, 2009, to Jan. 8, 2010.

The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies

is a non-profit organization primarily funded by Transamerica Life Insurance Co., owned by Dutch insurer

Aegon

(AEG) - Get Report

.

In a shift from the previous survey, many employers said they are optimistic about their financial situations and the U.S. economy. Almost half (49%) expect their company's finances to improve over the next 12 months, compared to only 29% in the previous study. Forty-five percent said they expect the economy to improve in the next 12 months, compared to 27% in 2009's study.

When it comes to retirement plans, the conclusions are less positive. The majority of companies surveyed (82%) said they now offer a 401(k) or similar employee-funded plan, up from 78%. But of those that don't offer a plan, 87% said that they are unlikely to do so. That's a sharp increase from the previous year's survey, in which only 59% indicated they weren't likely.

The survey found that adoption rates of some key plan features have stalled.

Twenty-seven percent of employers automatically enroll staff into company-sponsored retirement plans, up slightly from last year. Of those that don't automatically enroll their employees, 84% said they don't plan to do so in the future.

The share of employers offering investment advice or guidance was 58%, but, citing potential liability, 48% of the companies that don't offer advice said they have no plans to do so.

Nearly a quarter of employers offer a Roth 401(k) or similar option. Almost eight in 10 employers that don't currently offer a Roth plan don't plan to in the near future. More than a third of those companies cited a lack of employee interest.

Of employers who sponsor a 401(k) or similar direct-contribution plan, satisfaction levels were high (95%). Nevertheless, employers showed that they lack confidence in their employee's ability to properly manage them.

Nearly four in five employers agree that their workers don't know as much as they should about retirement investing, and fewer than half agree that their staff are "very involved in monitoring and managing their retirement savings." Three-quarters of employers said they believe their employees could work until age 65 and still not have enough saved to meet their retirement needs. Only 53% are confident in their employees' ability to achieve a comfortable lifestyle in retirement.

-- Reported by Joe Mont in Boston.

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