A recent study by Boston College's Center for Retirement Research might not exactly be the New Year's news that plan sponsors and plan administrators are looking for: Simply nudging people into more vested 401(k) participation through a high default deferral rate may do very little to increase overall financial participation in the plans.

The research, "A Nudge Isn't Always Enough," suggests that setting a particularly high default rate for new participants in a workplace 401(k) plan may in fact produce the very opposite effect, with participants immediately opting for a lower deferral.

The whole strategy, the project's authors report, boils down to some basic elements of behavioral theory and behavioral economics – what can be done to compel workers to take action and save their own money, without actually forcing them to do so.

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