Fidelity Investments announced Thursday that assets and the number of its Advisor 401(k) plans, designed for small- and mid-sized employers, increased in 2005. Assets increased 16% over the year before, to $13.5 billion, while the number of new plans Fidelity signed up rose 44%, to 380, bringing the total number of plans using Fidelity's Advisor 401(k) services to 2,176.

This year, Fidelity is hoping that new 401(k) features will continue to drive the business, including automatic enrollment, on-site education for advisers and their clients, benchmarking information and retirement readiness and action plan tools.

These will expand upon new features that Fidelity introduced in 2005, including the ability for participants to sign up for automatic annual increases and automatic rebalancing and for plans to automatically invest participants' money in Fidelity's lifecycle funds, if not otherwise designated for another investment.

Fidelity also announced that the average participation rate in its 401(k)s in 2005 was 66%, with participants investing an average of 7% of their salaries. Thirty percent of plan sponsors offer automatic increases and 72% now have at least one of Fidelity's lifecycle funds in their lineup.

"While we are encouraged by the level of participation and deferral rates," said Dave Liebrock, executive vice president, Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Co., "in an environment where pensions are disappearing and retiree health care costs are skyrocketing, workers who will rely on their 401(k) as their primary savings vehicle need to step up their efforts if they hope to secure a comfortable retirement."

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