MassMutual's Retirement Plan Participants Displaying 'Calm After the Storm'

Jan 27, 2010, 10:34 ET from MassMutual Retirement Services Division

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Jan. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- MassMutual's Retirement Services Division has released new data indicating that participants in retirement plans administered by MassMutual are taking a calmer, longer-term approach to their retirement saving plans.

A number of key participant measures for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2009 support this finding. Participant deferrals in Q4 2009 were up an average of 0.54% across all age groups vs. Q3 2009. The percentage of participants who maintained or increased their savings rate reached its highest level for the year in Q4 2009 at 96%, with 2.7% of participants actually increasing their savings rate. In addition, the number of participants who decreased their deferral rate reached the lowest levels in Q3 (1.25%) and Q4 (1.28%) respectively, demonstrating comfort with continued savings through their 401(k) plan.

While overall traffic on The Journey(SM), MassMutual's participant web site, declined 13% in Q4 vs. Q3 2009, traffic on the company's participant education web site, RetireSmart(SM) Academy, increased by more than 52% for the same period, a trend that indicates participants are checking their account balances less frequently but are very focused on educational activities.

RetireSmart Academy also noted its highest-ever Asset Allocation Seminar attendance since the site launched early in 2009, indicating a heightened interest in the importance of appropriate asset allocation. "Participants seem to have a greater understanding of the importance of taking a long-term approach and allocating their investments appropriately," says Heather Smiley, chief marketing officer for MassMutual's Retirement Services Division. "We have made a significant effort in investment education for participants and we will continue to do so in 2010," she adds.

MassMutual's average participant balance was up 29.1% in 2009 vs. 2008 and participants are displaying increasing confidence in equities. As of year-end 2009, participant assets in bonds and stable value funds declined slightly, while assets in equities and asset allocation investments as a percentage of total assets grew to 62.3%, a high for the year. Investments in MassMutual's asset allocation options increased from 18.6% at year-end 2008 to 21.6% at year-end 2009, a 16% increase and the highest level of assets in asset allocation funds as a percentage of total retirement assets at MassMutual to date.  

"We are very pleased to see that MassMutual's retirement plan participants are taking full advantage of the many resources we offer to help them establish a long-term plan to retire successfully," says Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president of MassMutual's Retirement Services Division and chairman and CEO of MassMutual International LLC.

According to MassMutual's call center data, more participants called about loans than any other activity in the 4th quarter, many of whom were exploring ways to pay off higher-interest debt and holiday expenses. While inquiries regarding loans and withdrawals were robust in the 4th quarter, the number of participant loans and hardship/in-service withdrawals actually initiated declined by 6.7% and 6.2% respectively for the period.

MassMutual's data covers approximately one million participants across more than 6,000 plans.  For more information regarding MassMutual Retirement Services, please call your retirement plan advisor or contact MassMutual at 1-866-444-2601.

About MassMutual

MassMutual's Retirement Services Division has been serving retirement plans for more than 60 years. It offers a full range of products and services for corporate, union, nonprofit and governmental employers' defined benefit, defined contribution and nonqualified deferred compensation plans. It serves approximately one million participants.

Founded in 1851, MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyholders.  The company has a long history of financial strength and strong performance, and although dividends are not guaranteed, MassMutual has paid dividends to eligible participating policyholders every year since the 1860s. With whole life insurance as its foundation, MassMutual provides products to help meet the financial needs of clients, such as life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, retirement/401(k) plan services, and annuities. In addition, the company's strong and growing network of financial professionals helps clients make good financial decisions for the long-term.

MassMutual Financial Group is a marketing name for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) [of which Retirement Services is a division] and its affiliated companies and sales representatives. MassMutual is headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts and its major affiliates include: Babson Capital Management LLC; Baring Asset Management Limited; Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC; The First Mercantile Trust Company; MassMutual International LLC; MML Investors Services, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC; OppenheimerFunds, Inc.; and The MassMutual Trust Company, FSB.

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Copyright © 2010 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and affiliates, Springfield, MA 01111-0001.  All rights reserved.

Contact: Lisa Reilly


SOURCE MassMutual Retirement Services Division