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ABSTRACT: Behavioral research has made important, relevant contributions to retirement saving and investing. This work has cast a new light on participant behavior and its underpinnings: By and large, individuals are inert--with good intentions, poor follow-through, and bounded rationality. Loss aversion and decision-making biases often lead to unfortunate outcomes, including a poorly funded retirement. Further, behavioral economists have demonstrated that education and communication programs alone may not be effective in changing behavior. Instead, with their behavioral insights, they have offered new retirement plan design alternatives and empirically tested their efficacy in overcoming identified suboptimal behavior. These efforts are helping to pave a path of least resistance that should lead to greater retirement security. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 appears to support these alternatives by providing incentives to plan sponsors that implement automatic features such as automatic enrollment and deferral rate escalation. It also allows plan sponsors to choose more aggressive investment defaults. Perhaps implicit in this support is some advice to sponsors to accept participant behavior and to think more about changing their own by embracing automatic plan features.
EBRI issue brief / Employee Benefit Research Institute 02/2007;