Americans have lowered their expectations for retirement and are not actively managing their retirement funds, according to a John Hancock Financial Services survey of 800 defined contribution investors nationwide. The average age at which investors expect to retire is 64.4, up from 61 in Hancock’s last survey in 2002 and 59 in the 1995 poll.

Almost 18% don’t expect they will be able to retire until age 70, nearly twice the amount in the 2002 survey and 11 percentage points higher than in 1995. And 70% don’t think they will have enough funds to live comfortably in their old age.

Investors are also doing a poor job of managing their retirement savings. Nearly 50% have never made any changes to their asset allocations and said they have little or no investment knowledge. Only slightly more than half have ever figured out how much they will need in retirement and spend 20 minutes or less each month on their investments or retirement planning.

Wayne Gates, Hancock’s general director of market research and development and author of the survey, said it indicates that making educational tools and the right investments available to 401(k) investors is not enough. He suggested that plan sponsors automate enrollment and investment choices for investors so that their portfolios are routinely rebalanced and invested in age- and risk-based funds. Further, Gates said that sponsors should automatically increase participants’ contributions along with salary increases until the maximum contribution rate is reached. On top of this, Gates urged employers to encourage plan participants to seek out financial advisors.

"For most Americans, 401(k)-type plans are the foundation of their future retirement security. Forcing do-it-yourself investing upon them clearly represents a huge crack in that foundation," Gates said. "Plan sponsors would do well by their participants if they looked more aggressively at providing options that would simplify and automate the investment process."

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