Monday, December 20, 2010

Employer Matches Being Restored and Even Increased?

A recent study by the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America (PSCA) suggests that among companies who reduced or eliminated their 401(k) matching contributions, most are restoring them. The data also suggests that fewer companies than the media would have led us to believe actually reduced or eliminated those contributions and that a fair number are actually increasing those matching contributions.

A summary of the study results is here:

Key finding include these:

  • 14.8% of employers suspended their matching contributions in recent years
  • Of those, 39.3% have restored those matching contributions
  • An additional 37.8% of those were planning to restore those matching contributions by April 2011
  • Roughly 10% of companies have increased their matching contributions
  • More than 75% of companies that suspended their matching contributions reported lower employee participation
  • More than 90% of companies in the survey have Committees that review fund performance
  • More than 70% of companies (as compared to slightly more than 50% in 2009) reported making changes to their fund lineups with the predominant reason being poor performance
I'd like to take a moment to look at these findings. One in particular looks misleading to me, that being the roughly 10% that have increased their matching contributions. I don't have the data to support my statement, but I would certainly hazard a guess that of those increasing their matching contributions, most were done at the expense of some other benefit or compensation plan. There just aren't that many companies out there that are willing to increase their allocation of dollars to employee benefits, especially retirement benefits.

To me, this points out that when you are reading any survey results, unless you have all the raw data to support it, remember the cogent words of Benjamin Disraeli (Mark Twain only popularized them): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." 

Just as good magician can deceive the eyes, so can one who has the data ... and sometimes has their own agenda.

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