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Reference Point Annual Benchmarking Report

Reference Point 2020 provides data and actionable insights into plan and participant activity throughout the year.

This valuable benchmarking tool analyzes key trends and shares expert commentary you can use to inform your plan strategy decisions.

2020 Annual Report Highlights

It goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic had, and will continue to have, repercussions on plan design and employee retirement savings outcomes. Yet in spite of the challenges, saving for retirement continued: Participant participation increased from 66% in 2019 to 67% in 2020.

13% Increase

The data reflects how both plan sponsors and participants understood that continuing to save for retirement is important, even during economic uncertainty:

  • The overall average pretax deferral rate for participants increased from 7.6% in 2019 to 7.8% in 2020—the largest annual increase since 2016.
  • Despite market volatility early in the year, the overall average balance increased 13% from $100,600 to $113,900 by the end of 2020.
  • Although the pandemic created economic uncertainty, more than 90% of participants stayed on track by not making a withdrawal from their retirement account.

While not necessarily "apples to apples," we can draw some comparisons between the 2008 Great Recession and the recent pandemic of 2020; one difference that stands out is average deferral rates.

2008 vs 2020 Image

Auto solutions make a difference:

  • The share of plans using auto-enrollment rose from 61.8% in 2019 to 62.2% in 2020.
  • Auto-increase grew from 79.8% in 2019 to 81.2% in 2020.
  • When used in tandem, these solutions can make a notable difference to participants saving for retirement.
auto enroll chart new

Market volatility affected retirement savings but we still see continued growth:

  • Participants saved more.
  • Account balances continued to grow.
  • Plan sponsors remained steadfast in helping employees save for retirement.

About the Report

Unless otherwise noted, all data included in this report are drawn from the following sources: Data are based on the large-market, full-service universe—T. Rowe Price total—of T. Rowe Price Retirement Plan Services, Inc., retirement plans (401(k) and 457 plans), consisting of 674 plans and over 2 million participants.

For more information on this report or where you can get additional industry-specific data to support your plan design discussions, please contact your T. Rowe Price representative.

This material is provided for general and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, or investment advice. This material does not provide recommendations concerning investments, investment strategies, or account types; it is not intended to suggest that any particular investment action is appropriate for you. Please consider your own circumstances before making an investment decision.

© Copyright 2021, T. Rowe Price Investment Services, Inc., Distributor. All rights reserved.