A retirement crisis that sees most Americanspoorly, if at all, financially prepared to leave the workplacecould see improvement if default savings rates were pushed higher — not just alittle, but a lot higher.

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So says new research from Voya Financial’s Voya BehavioralFinance Institute for Innovation. In a working paper titled“How Do Consumers Respond When Default Options Pushthe Envelope?” the Institute, in conjunction with behavioralscientists from UCLA, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania,examined the impact to retirement plan enrollment and savingsbehavior when individuals were shown savings rates abovetraditionally displayed levels.

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While auto features in retirement plans, such as auto enrollmentand auto escalation of contributions, have proved helpful inboosting both participation and savings rates, the study indicatesthat they could be a lot more so if savings rates were set higher.Many plans set the default contribution rate at three percent, oreven lower, and few go higher than six. And that’s far fromadequate to prepare someone for retirement.

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“Many employers are reluctant to suggest higher contributionrates due to a concern that their workers might blindly accept whatis not in their best interest, or that they might get intimidatedand opt out of the plan altogether,” Dr. Shlomo Benartzi, UCLAAnderson School of Management professor and a senior academicadvisor to the Institute, is quoted saying.

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Benartzi adds, “However, no one had researched these concernsusing a scientific approach. Would plan participants accept aseven, eight or nine percent savings rate? Can we push it evenhigher into double digits? Through this study, our team found thesepreconceived fears were largely unwarranted.”

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The study tested out higher savings rates to see whether/whenthose rates might meet resistance, and found that, surprisinglyenough, the higher rates were accepted — or at least spurred anincrease in the participant’s existing savings rate, even if thatincrease didn’t go as high as the suggested higher rate.

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Among the study’s findings: Suggesting rates between seven and10 percent did not result in lower enrollment when compared to asix percent control rate. The highest rate suggested—11percent—resulted in only a slight drop in enrollment.

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Also, while the main increase in average savings took place whenthe suggested rate was increased from six to seven percent,all of the higher suggested rates produced better averagesaving levels when compared to the six percent rate.

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And last but not least, suggesting higher rates led tomeaningful improvements in the financial security of planparticipants. The researchers calculated that, for an employee withan annual salary of $70,000, the incremental benefits could produceadditional retirement savings of $57,000—amounting to more than 8percent of additional retirement savings for that same employeeover their working career.

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