If new employees were automatically enrolled in 401(k)'s, mutual fund companies might collect assets from the 15 percent of the population that fail to sign up for 401(k)s, fund executives and consultants said.

But doing so is a gamble, because the main reason people do not contribute to 401(k)'s is that they are low wage earners, and mutual fund companies do not want the expense of servicing small accounts, said Ted Benna, founder of the 401(k) and now president of 401(k) Association, a consulting company in Bellefonte, Pa.

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