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Defined Contribution

Participants in small DC plans boost contributions, Vanguard survey finds

Participants in small-business retirement plans contributed, on average, 7.1% of their salary to their company's retirement plan in 2017, up from 6.9% in 2016, said a Vanguard Group survey released Thursday.

The survey — which covers approximately 8,900 defined contribution plans with $20 million or less in assets — is a supplement to Vanguard's broad annual "How America Saves" survey.

The latest version of the "How America Saves" survey, which was released in June, found an average deferral rate of 6.8% among large-company employees, according to a news release comparing the small plan and broad survey results.

In terms of plan design, the survey released Thursday found three-quarters of small-business plan sponsors offered employer contributions with an average value of 4% of salary at the end of 2017.

On average, participants in small-company plans had access to 20 investment options as of Dec. 31. Participants in the broad June survey had access to 18 investment options on average.

Similar to their large-company peers, small-company participants had 73% of their plan assets allocated to equities as of Dec. 31.

As of the same date, small-company participants had, on average, 43% of their assets in target-date strategies, compared to 33% in the broad survey.

Other findings from the small-business retirement plan survey, all as of Dec. 31, include:

Close to two-thirds of eligible employees participate in their company's retirement plan, compared to an estimated 72% of participants in the broad survey.

Among terminated employees, 87% of those eligible for distributions rolled over their retirement assets into an individual retirement account or kept them in their employer's plan.

Accounting for both employer and employee contributions, the average contribution rate was 9.7% in 2017, up from 9.3% in 2016, and compared to 10.3% in the broad survey.

Eight out of 10 small plan sponsors offered Roth features.

The small-business plans that were surveyed are clients of Vanguard's Retirement Plan Access program, a comprehensive plan fiduciary service for plans with $20 million or less in assets. Vanguard partners with Ascensus to provide record-keeping and administrative services for these plans.

The broader June survey incorporated data from 1,900 DC plans for which Vanguard is a record keeper. The plans ranged in size from $20 million to several billion.