Automatic enrollment features in 401(k) plans are anything but automatic, as sponsors remain reluctant to exercise the authority granted them by the IRS in 1998.

The agency allows sponsors to automatically enroll new hires in qualified plans and defer a percentage of their pretax salary so long as participants are notified and allowed to opt out of the plan.

Still, the latest annual report from the Profit Sharing/401k Council of America shows that just 8.1% of more than 900 surveyed plans have automatic enrollment. It's most prevalent in large plans (19.8%) and least common in small plans (2%). The most common default deferral percentage was 3% of pay, present in 58.5% of plans.

In other survey findings, the average company contribution was 4.6% of payroll, the average number of fund options was 13, and average participation was 80.2% of eligible employees.

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