The 10 Most Common Retirement Benefits

401(k)s and pensions aren’t the only retirement perks companies are offering.

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Retirement benefits vary considerably by employer. Most large employers now provide a 401(k) or similar type of retirement account, but other valuable retirement perks including retiree health insurance and traditional pensions are declining. Here’s a look at the most common retirement benefits.

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401(k) account. A Society for Human Resource Management member survey of 534 human resources professionals found that 92 percent now offer a 401(k), 403(b), or similar type of tax-deferred retirement account, up from 81 percent in 2006. Popular 401(k) investment choices include balanced funds (62 percent) and target-date retirement funds (46 percent).

401(k) match. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of employers contribute to worker retirement accounts. Publicly owned for-profit organizations (85 percent) are considerably more likely to provide a 401(k) match than government employers (42 percent). But employer contributions are not a guaranteed retirement benefit. Some 10 percent of the companies surveyed say they plan to reduce or eliminate their 401(k) contributions within the next 12 months.

401(k) loans. Another popular retirement perk is actually allowing workers to tap their retirement accounts before retirement. Most employers (69 percent) permit workers to take defined contribution plan loans. And 2 percent of firms even provide a 401(k) debit card that allows cardholders to borrow up to $50,000 or 50 percent of the value of their retirement savings, whichever is less.

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Automatic enrollment. Some employers try to motive workers to save for retirement by automatically enrolling them in a retirement plan (39 percent). Another 18 percent of employers automatically escalate the default amount employees save over time (18 percent). Employees must be given regular opportunities to opt out.

Retirement planning help. Many companies offer personalized retirement help including individual investment advice (40 percent) and retirement planning services (39 percent).

Supplemental retirement accounts. Roth 401(k) accounts, which allow workers to make after-tax contributions and take tax-free withdrawals in retirement, are provided by 28 percent of the employers surveyed. Another 11 percent of companies offer supplemental executive retirement plans.

Traditional pension. The proportion of companies providing traditional pensions has steadily declined from 48 percent in 2006 to 27 percent in 2010. And 14 percent of the firms with a pension say they plan to reduce or eliminate the benefit within the next year. Government employers (83 percent) are considerably more likely than privately owned companies (19 percent) to provide retirees with guaranteed payments based on their years of service and pay. Another 9 percent of employers offer a cash balance pension plan.

Retiree health insurance. Only a quarter of companies currently provide retiree health care coverage, down from 35 percent in 2007. Government employers (75 percent) and large companies with 500 or more employees (41 percent) and are the most likely to offer retiree health insurance. Small companies with fewer than 100 employees (10 percent) and privately owned for-profit companies (15 percent) seldom provide health benefits to retirees.

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Long-term care insurance. Almost a third (31 percent) of employers currently provide long-term care insurance and 3 percent even subsidize some of the costs of eldercare.

Phased retirement. Some employers encourage workers to retire gradually instead of simply exiting the workforce. A few companies (6 percent) have formal phased retirement programs that allow workers to reduce their schedule or responsibilities prior to full retirement. The hope is that these older workers will pass along their institutional knowledge to younger employees.