Former U.S. Senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards has partnered with former Congressman and Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp to launch a national "Savers Society" campaign calling on companies to offer automatic 401(k) options.

The campaign, in partnership with the Retirement Security Project, is in response to data showing that half of American workers near retirement have $15,000 or less in retirement savings.

Only 13% of recently hired workers earning $20,000 or less participate in their 401(k), but when they are automatically enrolled in the plan, participation rates reach 80%.

"This is an important step to ensure that seniors don't fall into poverty once they retire," Edwards said. "The auto 401(k) is a simple way for corporations to make it easier for their employees to assume this responsibility."

Automatic enrollment is gaining traction among large companies; 30% of 401(k) plans with 5,000 participants or more now have such a function.

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