The Recession has prompted an overwhelming majority of American workers to believe it’s time for a new and improved model for workplace retirement programs, Prudential Financial [PRU] found in a survey.

Prudential’s sixth “Workplace Report on Retirement Planning” found that 84% would embrace a fresh approach to their workplace retirement plans, particularly more “autopilot” features.

“Our survey found that the losses sustained by American workers during the past two years really drove home the inherent limitations of longstanding retirement plan design,” said Christine Marcks, president of Prudential Retirement. “With the effects of the economic crisis still front and center in people’s mind, we’re seeing increased awareness of the importance of workplace-provided plans.”

Respondents to the survey said they would like fully automated 401(k)s, starting with enrollment right on through to savings default rates, contribution escalation, asset allocation and, finally, automatic conversion of plan assets into a guaranteed retirement income stream.

“Today’s workers recognize the critical role played by their employment-based retirement plan and are keenly aware that the existing ‘do-it-yourself’ approach simply isn’t the best way to build or achieve retirement security,” Marck said.

Seventy-four percent had a positive impression of automatic enrollment, 70% like automatic contribution rates, and 65% welcome periodic contribution increases. Fifty-nine percent of younger workers between the ages of 21 and 44 view automatic asset allocation as a positive, and 57% of older workers (45 to 64) concur.

Perhaps most interestingly, 71% of younger workers and 64% of older workers think conversion of a savings balance into guaranteed income at retirement is a good idea.

Finally, 85% said a fully automated plan represents a “new and different” approach to current defined contribution plan design, and nearly 50% said they probably would have fared better in the recession had their plan used such features. More than half said they are now “behind schedule” on retiring, and 66% said they expect to work longer.

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