Bank Of America Merrill Lynch 401(k) Scorecard Finds Employees And Employers Taking Action To Improve Financial Wellness

According to the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch 401(k) Wellness Scorecard, throughout 2013 employees demonstrated positive savings behaviors in their 401(k) plan 1. The report reveals year-over-year trends in plan participant behaviors, along with employers’ adoption of 401(k) design features in plans serviced by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Key insights from the report include:
  • Among employees who took action in their 401(k) plan last year, 76 percent took a positive action, such as starting or increasing contributions – a 3 percent increase compared to the prior year. Tracked quarterly, during the fourth quarter last year, 83 percent took a positive action, representing a three-year high.
  • Health savings account (HSA) usage grew significantly in 2013. With rising healthcare costs and a growing number of employers offering HSAs alongside high-deductible health plans, more workers are using these tax-advantaged vehicles to prepare for qualified near- and long-term medical expenses. The number of employees holding a Bank of America HSA increased 56 percent last year to approximately 290,000.

“Thanks to advancements in the fields of medicine and technology, people today are preparing for a retirement that will likely be many years longer than any previous generation,” said David Tyrie, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “We’re committed to helping people live their best lives in retirement, which includes empowering them to get the most out of their benefits and to take greater control of their financial future.”

Employers increasingly adopt auto features and advice

Last year, employers continued to seek proactive ways to help their employees achieve their retirement goals and improve their overall financial wellness. Results from the report show that:
  • The number of 401(k) plan sponsors adopting auto enrollment increased 16 percent in 2013, while the adoption of auto increase grew 25 percent.
  • Last year also saw a 20 percent increase in the number of plans offering both auto enroll and auto increase features – demonstrating that employers seek to help employees get started as well as stay on the path toward a successful retirement.
  • 401(k) plan sponsor adoption of Advice Access2 increased 14 percent last year. Advice Access is a professional saving and investment advice service – offered online, via phone and in person – tailored to an employee’s life stage and individual situation. Nearly 600 plan sponsors now offer this service.

“During the last few years, it has been encouraging to see companies increasingly use intuitive plan design strategies and other services to make their 401(k) plans more accessible and easy to use,” said Kevin Crain, senior relationship executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “When combined with simplified employee decision-making around enrollment, contributions and wise investing, employers can truly help drive better outcomes for their workforces.”

Mobile benefits frontier

Since 2012, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has introduced ongoing mobile enhancements to its financial benefit plan platform, Benefits OnLine ®. Benefits OnLine Mobile provides employees access to detailed information in their 401(k), equity, defined benefit and non-qualified deferred compensation plans while on the go through a unified mobile experience. Such details include balances and other account information, along with important messages and timely alerts about how to maximize their benefits. With the freedom to engage anywhere, anytime through virtually all mobile device types, the number of mobile visitors to Benefits OnLine doubled in 2013.

To access the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 401(k) Wellness Scorecard, click here.

1 401(k) Wellness Scorecard is based on the Bank of America Merrill Lynch proprietary 401(k) business, which comprises $120.3 billion in total client plan assets and 2.5 million total plan participants as of December 31, 2013.

2 The Advice Access service uses a probabilistic approach to determine the likelihood that participants in the service may be able to achieve their stated goals and/or to identify a range of potential wealth outcomes that could be realized. Additionally, the recommendations provided by Advice Access do not consider an individual's comfort level with investment risk, and may include a higher level of investment risk than a participant may be personally comfortable with. Participants are strongly advised to consider their personal goals, overall risk tolerance, and retirement horizon before accepting any recommendations made by Advice Access. Participants should carefully review the explanation of the methodology used, including key assumptions and limitations, which is provided in the Advice Access disclosure statement. It can be obtained through Benefits OnLine or through your Bank of America Merrill Lynch representative.

IMPORTANT: The projections or other information shown in the Advice Access service regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results and are not guarantees of future results. Results may vary with each use and over time.

Bank of AmericaBank of America is one of the world's largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small- and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. We serve approximately 51 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 5,200 retail banking offices and approximately 16,200 ATMs and award-winning online banking with 30 million active users and more than 14 million mobile users. Bank of America is among the world's leading wealth management companies and is a global leader in corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations in more than 40 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is a marketing name for the Retirement Services business of Bank of America Corporation (“BAC”). Banking activities may be performed by wholly owned banking affiliates of BAC, including Bank of America, N.A., member FDIC. Brokerage services may be performed by wholly owned brokerage affiliates of BAC, including Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (“MLPF&S”), a registered broker-dealer and member SIPC.

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Copyright Business Wire 2010

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