Company retirement plans are the cornerstone of the American retirement system, and they have become easier to join. Thanks to regulations that passed in 2006, many company plans don't require new employees to sign up. They offer automatic enrollment and automatic escalation features to help workers save for retirement without having to think about it.
But these features can be a crutch. A new study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that workers who are automatically enrolled tend to contribute less money than they would if they had signed themselves up and chosen their own contribution rate. With auto enrollment, companies typically set the starting rate at 3 percent of pay, escalating the rate by 1 percentage point annually up to a threshold. Investments go into a preapproved fund, deemed by regulators as "capable of meeting a worker's long-term retirement savings needs," according to the Department of Labor.
Bankrate's stories explain how to take charge of your own retirement savings. Taking control can make the difference between a comfortable retirement and one in which you may find yourself strapped for cash.