More 401(k) sponsors are expected to embrace automatic enrollment in the next year or so, boosting participation from 30% to 40% to 80% or higher, The Baltimore Sun reports.

Nationwide, that should boost participation to a full 50%, predicts Stephen Utkus, a principal with the Vanguard Center for Retirement Research.

Currently, only about 15% of employers offer automatic enrollment, principally because they have been afraid to defy state laws prohibiting wage garnishment or to get sued should the default investment choices lose money for employees.

Thankfully, though, the new pension protection act removed some of those questions. Starting in 2008, companies can avoid some 401(k) compliance reviews if they meet certain criteria, including an initial contribution level of at least 3% and a company match of up to 3.5%. The Department of Labor also now allows companies to invest workers’ money in diversified investments, rather than only in ultra-conservative choices.

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