By The Numbers

Inertia, anxiety still rule the day for 401(k) participants

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Posted February 18, 2010 by Editorial Staff at 10:36AM. Comments (0)

More than two-thirds of 401(k) plan participants (68%) have not made any savings or investment changes to their accounts in response to the financial crisis, choosing instead to “ride it out,” a new study has found.

Of the 1,100 respondents to a survey conducted over the last half of 2009, 32% reported that they did make changes to their 401(k) account, with 18% either reducing their saving rate or eliminating saving for retirement altogether. Of those who reduced their savings percentage, the primary reasons were the loss of a job, a pay cut and the immediate need for cash. Only 7% cited market conditions as the reason.

Sixty-one percent of respondents do not believe they will have to postpone their retirement as a result of the financial downturn. Among those who do, 29% are doing nothing, 25% are saving more, 25% plan on living on less, and 8% are investing more aggressively.

“Many participants realize they should be saving more, but other factors, including overall economic uncertainty, the desire to pay down debt, and job losses or wage reductions within the household are holding them back,” says Kelli Send, senior VP of Francis Investment Counsel LLC, which conducted the survey.

All of the companies participating in the study offer education and advice to plan participants, according to Send. Among the participants who utilized their employer’s advisory services, 91% said that sessions providing education and advice were worthwhile.

“Many of the participants we talk with are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety but are more worried about their jobs than their 401(k),” says Send. “While they want help with their saving and investment decisions, inertia continues to be a huge factor in the lack of behavioral change.”

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