Organizations looking to hire experienced workers may want to make sure their retirement plans are top of the line, with new research showing a company-sponsored retirement plan is a hot commodity for pre-retirees looking for a new job.

A study by American Century Investments found that pre-retirees were five times more likely to accept a job that offers a retirement plan than one that only offers a higher salary.

"Retirement plan participants have a great deal of regret about their past saving behavior," says Diane Gallagher, a vice president with American Century Investments. "Plan participants aren’t expecting to be rich; they are really aspiring for independence, rather than affluence, in retirement. Also, they realize it’s important to save through their defined contribution plan, but they look to their employers to help them establish positive saving and investing patterns."

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Out of the more than 2,000 defined contribution plan participants who were surveyed for this study, nearly all of them said they “have at least some regret about when they started saving for retirement,” the report found. “Some 75% said they could have saved at least a little more in the past. More than half of plan participants across all age groups point to the first five years of working as the time in which they could have saved much more than they did.”

The majority of participants said that not saving enough for retirement was one of the biggest mistakes they ever made.

“In fact, not saving enough for retirement was mentioned more frequently than not doing better with personal relationships or careers,” Gallagher says.

Even after saying they regret not saving enough, half of pre-retirees and 60% of those between the ages of 25 and 54 admit they still don’t save as much as they should. Three out of four plan sponsors say their participants save less than they should, with one out of three saying their workers are saving significantly less than they should, according to American Century Investments.

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Retirement savings is still one of the top financial goals for 70% of study participants. The majority of those said that it would be far worse to have too little money in retirement than to miss out on something today, the report found.

"We found that participants are willing to make adjustments to their current lifestyle, rather than suffer the consequences later," Gallagher says. "We believe their goals are more about independence than about an extravagant lifestyle."

Contrary to what plan sponsors think, the majority of workers would welcome a nudge from employers about saving more for retirement. Eighty percent of study participants said they would have saved more for retirement if their employer had encouraged them to do so.

American Century Investments found that seven out of 10 participants are in favor of automatic enrollment at a starting contribution rate of 6% and more than half of those surveyed believe that auto enrollment should be extended to all employees, not just new hires.

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A majority of participants said they would be interested in automatic escalation and 68% of pre-retirees and 70% of participants under the age of 54 said employers should implement a plan investment re-enrollment into target-date funds, meaning all of a participant’s retirement account and future contributions would be invested in the plan’s default investment unless they opt out of it.

The survey was conducted during the first quarter of 2015 among 2,031 full-time workers between the ages of 25 and 65 who participate in their workplace retirement plan. Data was collected and analyzed by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc. out of Washington, D.C.

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver.

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