Highest-ever average 401(k) balances reported
The average balance in 401(k) accounts managed by Fidelity Investments reached $75,900 at the end of the third quarter 2012, the highest it has been since the company began tracking account data more than 12 years ago.
The ending balance represents an 18% increase over one year prior when it was $64,300, according to Fidelity’s analysis of its 12 million 401(k) accounts in more than 20,200 corporate defined contribution plans.
The analysis showed the following:
• Annual employee contributions grew 7.3% over the past five years to $5,900 at the end of the third quarter 2012, up from $5,500 ending the third quarter 2007.
• Average annual employer contributions rose to $3,420 at the end of the third quarter 2012, up 19% since the third quarter 2007, when it was $2,880.
“It’s encouraging to see companies making a greater contribution to their employees’ 401(k) plans, as we know a healthy employer match not only impacts employees’ retirement savings but also has a positive impact on their behavior, ultimately leading to better outcomes,” said James M. MacDonald, president of Fidelity Workplace Investing, in a media release. Employers could do even more to help boost savings, such as increasing their default automatic enrollment rate and using automatic annual increase programs that gradually raise an employee’s savings rate, he added.
MacDonald pointed out that during the third quarter 2012, new participants who were auto-enrolled had an average deferral rate of 3.7%, while new participants in plans not using auto-enrollment had an average deferral rate of 8.4%. This may be attributed to plans that enroll participants automatically at too low of a default deferral rate, such as the common 3 percent, noted MacDonald. He advises plans to adopt a 6% auto-enrollment default rate with an automatic escalation of 1 percent annually, up to 10%.
Many financial advisers recommend that participants save an average of 10% to 15% of their annual salary to meet their income needs in retirement. “Each single percentage point of added savings can help participants meet that goal,” said MacDonald.
The analysis also revealed that contributions were more balanced than years past:
• New contributions into balanced-asset options, including mixed stock/bond funds and target-date retirement funds, grew to 36% of all contributed dollars at the end of the third quarter 2012, up from 20% at the end of the third quarter 2007.
• New contributions specifically into target-date retirement funds grew to 34%, up from 15% five years prior.
“The report’s findings are consistent with the continuing movement over the past decade toward employers providing retirement benefits via defined contribution 401(k) plans rather than defined benefit pension plans,” said George Braun, a partner in the employee benefits group of law firm Pepper Hamilton, in a comment to SHRM Online. “As employers stopped or cut back on providing pensions for their workers, they put more emphasis on helping employees build 401(k) accounts, including both higher employer contributions and more retirement and investment planning and education for employees.”
©2012 SHRM. All rights reserved.
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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Nov. 23, 2012
*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.
Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report.
Lumber: Trading slowed in the SPF lumber market, as buyers started the long holiday weekend early or chose to digest what they had in inventory. Even so, mills sold some volumes into the week of Dec. 10. Sales activity in the Southern Pine lumber market understandably slowed, but upward price momentum continued. Mills carried order files into early December, and buyers continued to purchase moderate volumes. The sales pace for Coastal species dimension was sluggish, yet any urgency among producers to sell in a quieter market was negligible. With order files in hand, producers were even able to nudge a few prices slightly higher. Although the Inland lumber market was quieter overall, enough buyers were still looking for inventory fill-in items to force prices higher. Activity was greater for 2×6 #2&Btr in both Hem-Fir and Fir-Larch. Buyers of Radiata Pine Mldg&Btr and Shop grades stepped in to buy, forcing prices up. Radiata Pine 5/4 Mldg&Btr and 6/4 Mldg&Btr and Shop prices increased. Market prices for Ponderosa Pine Mldg&Btr and Shop also improved, as buyers also stepped into those markets. Limited supplies of Ponderosa Pine Selects and Commons kept mill prices firm in spite of slow sales brought on by the short holiday week. Western Red Cedar producers continued to fill orders for December and January. Items such as timber, posts and rails and rough dimension sold well. Decking supplies were tighter.
Panels: The tone of the OSB market in the U.S. was quiet, as buyers and sellers left their desks for the Thanksgiving holiday. Some traders took the entire week off. Canadian mills noticed a slowdown in their sales to U.S. destinations, as well. Limited buyer participation in the Southern Pine plywood market left rated sheathing prices flat and reduced mill lead times. Order files extended into October 3. A few producers had rated sheathing to sell in the week of 11/26. Western Fir plywood producers booked light volumes. Wholesalers sold volumes at discounts to replacement costs, sometimes by as much as $20. Mills trying to sell at lower prices struggled to move any volume. Canadian plywood producers reported light but steady sales. Order files at the major producers were into the week of December 10 or 17, depending on the item. Buyers began discussions with mills on next year’s business. Particleboard buyers continued to try to maintain lean inventories toward the year’s end where possible. This limited the volumes sold by mills. MDF buyers were more inclined to stay in line to receive their allotted volumes. MDF prices remained much firmer than particleboard.
Cyber crowds expected for Cyber Monday
Almost 130 million consumers expect to shop online Nov. 26, this year’s Cyber Monday, according to a survey conducted for Shop.org by BIGinsight.
Despite record levels of online spending over the Black Friday weekend, 129.2 million shoppers say they’ll head to retailers’ websites on Cyber Monday in 2012, up from the 122.8 million who shopped last year, and the 106.9 million who shopped on Cyber Monday on 2010.
Eager to meet consumers’ demands, 85% of retailers surveyed will have a special promotion for Cyber Monday.
“Whether from the couch or the cubicle, online shoppers will make this Cyber Monday bigger than ever,” said Shop.org executive director, Vicki Cantrell. “Retailers have honed and improved their websites, mobile sites and social media outreach to be better than ever.”
The number of shoppers planning to use their smartphones or other mobile device this Cyber Monday increased to 20.4 million this year, from 17.8 million in 2011, a 14.4% jump. In just three years, the number of U.S. consumers saying they would use their mobile device to shop on Cyber Monday has skyrocketed from just 3.6 million (3.8%) in 2009 to 20.4 million (15.8%) in 2012.
While the majority of Cyber Monday shoppers will make purchases from their home computer (88.0%, or 113.7 million people), nearly 16 million will also use their computers at work to shop this year (12.4%). The Shop.org survey estimated that nearly 72 million Americans would shop from work at some point during the holiday season.
While many retailers expect to see sales and traffic spike over lunch hours, Cyber Monday shoppers plan to go online throughout the day. According to the survey, 44.4% of Cyber Monday shoppers plan to hit the Web early in the morning, with more than one-third of (36.8%) planning to shop in the late morning. Additionally, nearly three in 10 Cyber Monday shoppers (29.2%) will shop in the early evening.
The survey, conducted Nov. 23 to 24, 2012, by BIGinsight for Shop.org, polled 4,005 consumers. Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation, is a leading membership community for digital retail.