Employers Fall Short on Retirement Packages

As baby boomers start grappling with retirement, many believe employers should be taking a more active role in financial planning at the workplace, a new survey shows.

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Of 1,100 workers and 638 retirees polled in May, a full 59 percent said employees should be automatically enrolled in 401(k) or deferral rate step up programs — compared to just 35 percent in a similar survey in 2002, according to the Des Moines, Iowa-based Principal Financial Group.

The survey, which polled workers at small and midsize businesses, also found that 82 percent want on-the-job help with planning their retirement savings. Nearly half said they would even be willing to pay for it, the survey reported.

"For most workers, the days of do-it-yourself investing and day trading from a brokerage amount in your 401(k) are history," Dan Houston, an executive vice president at Principal, said in a statement. "Let's face it, forecasting how to parcel out a retirement nest egg for the future is a daunting challenge."

For one thing, workers tend to underestimate the length of their retirement, Houston said. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they planned to spend less than 20 years in retirement. In fact, American workers on average are now leaving the workplace at 62 and are more likely to live more than 20 years afterwards, according to statistics quoted in the survey.

At the same time, many overestimate the amount of income their current retirement savings will provide. A full 66 percent of employees and 59 percent of retirees said they expected to be able to withdraw 6 percent or more of their savings every year without running out of money, the survey said.

Typically, financial planners target a 4 percent annual withdrawal rate for retirees, Houston said, likening higher rates to "trading in your fuel-efficient compact car for a gas-guzzling SUV and thinking your gas mileage won't change."

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