Plan participants, despite sponsors’ efforts at education, stilllack confidence in their ability to evaluate retirement needs andsave and invest enough to meet them — but automatic features such asauto-enrollment and automatic contribution escalation,or auto-escalation, can help bridge the gap.

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That’s according to a J.P. Morgan Asset Management research study onplan participants. The resulting white paper, “Guiding Participantsfrom Intent to Action: 2016 Defined Contribution Plan ParticipantSurvey Findings,” said that many plan participants have a number ofreasons to doubt that they’ll be able to retire with enough moneyto meet their needs.

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Related: Munnell calls for mandated auto-enrollment in401(k)s, IRAs

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Among those reasons are more immediate financial demands thatimpair their ability to save for a more distant future, a lack ofunderstanding on how to set a retirement goal and a lack ofconfidence in their investing ability.

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Added to that are a disconnect between intention and action — 81percent of respondents, for instance, said they are interested indoing financial planning for retirement, but 45 percent do not havea plan — and a lack of action regarding their retirement plans atwork.

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Lest they be overtaken by events, many workers seem happy tosurrender management of their retirement plans to auto features — despite theavowal of some that they’d rather do things themselves.

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The study found, among other things, that approximately threequarters of participants are in favor of or at least neutral towardautomatic enrollment (75 percent) and automatic contributionescalation (74 percent).

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Roughly two-thirds (67 percent) are in favor of, or at leastneutral toward, a combination of these two features. A largemajority (90 percent) find target-date funds appealing, and 82percent are in favor of, or at least neutral toward,re-enrollment.

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This is despite the fact that 41 percent of respondents saythey’re “do-it-yourself” investors who would prefer to make theirown investment decisions — compared with 59 percent who wouldsooner that someone do it for them.

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Automatic features such as auto-enrollment, auto-escalation andre-enrollment can go a long way toward resolving these problems,along with qualified default investment alternatives, and of courseplan providers have ample statistics that indicate these practicesboost participation and savings rates — as do some otherstrategies, of course.

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But are auto features popular with employers? Not so much;there’s a perception that they’re going to become expensive if they’retruly successful and participants up their savings rates. Still, asemployers become more concerned with the need to be sure plansprovide successful outcomes, they may recalculate those costsagainst the potential for having an aging workforce that cannotafford to retire.

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