Research Advocates Paradigm Shift for Retirement Communication and Education
11 July 2012

There is new hope that Americans will be better prepared for retirement, thanks to automatic features offered through employer-sponsored retirement plans, according to a study just released from Lincoln Financial Group and Retirement Made Simpler. Part of the Lincoln Retirement Power® research series, the survey explored plan sponsors’ perspective on the value of automatic retirement plan features including automatic enrollment, automatic escalation and qualified default investment alternatives (QDIAs). The study found that 94% of plan sponsors recognize the success of automatic enrollment features in helping them address their plan-related goals and that these features drive higher participation and deferral rates along with better investment performance.

Other key findings include:

  • 85% of plan sponsors reported that automatic features are especially effective in helping participants who consider themselves less educated on retirement matters.
  • Plans with automatic escalation experienced deferral rates of 8% or higher compared to the average deferral rates of 4% or less for the majority of plans in America.1
  • 97% of plan sponsors who have adopted the bundle of automatic enrollment, automatic escalation and QDIA say the advantages outweigh any perceived disadvantages reinforcing the value of the full bundle rather than a single feature approach.

"Our Lincoln Retirement Power® survey confirms what we intuitively believe. Automatic features are highly effective," said Chuck Cornelio, President, Retirement Plan Services, Lincoln Financial Group. "Employers who offer these features in their plans will help Americans take charge of their retirement. But just like any other plan design innovation, auto solutions do not mean you can simply set it and forget it. Employees need personalized and outcomes-based communication and education to meet their goals and boost their retirement readiness."

Despite these impressive results, according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America, less than half of plan sponsors have adopted auto escalation and enrollment to date. The Lincoln Retirement Power® study uncovered that while new communication channels have emerged since the advent of auto features, they have not kept pace with cultural and generational shifts or the evolution of plan design. Only 51% of sponsors say they offer customized communication and only half (50%) have revamped communication materials since the introduction of auto features.

Plan sponsors agree that employee communication must shift significantly when automatic features are adopted. That means moving away from education that is technical in nature — such as how to enroll or the investments offered — to engaging participants in a more meaningful discussion about their individual savings behaviors and strategies such as their future monthly retirement income, spending power and projected retirement lifestyle.

"Conversations need to be more personalized and address each employee’s specific needs, goals and lifestyles," said Cornelio. "It’s time to take a more proactive approach to how we plan for retirement, with more focus on the connection between our future goals and what it will take to get there."

The good news is that automated models are helping more people take steps to save for retirement. The strong combination of auto solutions plus outcomes-focused communication has the power to motivate people, in a positive way, to take an active role in their retirement readiness."

For more information on the Retirement Power® study, visit

Survey Methodology

The Lincoln Retirement Power® Automatic Features Study is based on research conducted by Brightwork Partners, LLC for Lincoln Financial and Retirement Made Simpler. Researchers administered the survey by phone from February 8, 2012 to March 8, 2012. The research explored automatic retirement plan features from the perspective of 201 executives responsible for managing 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans with assets of $10 million or more. Respondents had to have implemented at least one automatic feature, including: qualified default investment alternatives (QDIAs), automatic enrollment and/or automatic escalation. The survey sample is nationally representative of all 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans with assets of $10 million or more offering at least one automatic feature (approximately 12,000 plans). To learn more about the Automatic Features Study, visit

About Retirement Made Simpler

Retirement Made Simpler is a coalition formed by AARP, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Retirement Security Project (RSP). The coalition was created specifically to inspire and support employers who want to help their employees save more for retirement. By providing companies with the tools and information they need to automate their retirement plans, more Americans will achieve a safe and secure retirement. For more information, visit

1 Plan Sponsor Council of America

About Lincoln Financial Group

Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation (NYSE:LNC) and its affiliates. With headquarters in the Philadelphia region, the companies of Lincoln Financial Group had assets under management of $170 billion as of March 31, 2012. Through its affiliated companies, Lincoln Financial Group offers: employer-sponsored retirement plans; individual annuities; individual life, group life, disability and dental insurance; and comprehensive financial planning and advisory services. For more information, including a copy of our most recent SEC reports containing our balance sheets, please visit


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Daniela Palmieri