Nearly half of U.S. companies are now automatically enrolling workers into 401(k) plans to encourage them to save for retirement, and an additional 33% are considering it, according to a survey by Watson Wyatt.

And 62% of companies are using target-date funds as their default investment option, up from 62% in 2006.

Companies that automatically enroll employees in 401(k)s use a median initial contribution rate of 3%, with 1% to 7% the range. Fifty-one percent of the companies using auto-enroll increase the contribution rate by a certain amount each year.

“Employees need to participate more effectively in their company defined contribution plan, as this is increasingly the primary vehicle they use to save for retirement,” said Chris DeMeo, senior investment consultant at Watson Wyatt. “Taking an interest and actively participating in their plans will allow employees to make more informed decisions and develop investment strategies that take into account their goals and risk profiles.”

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