Are You On Track for Retirement?

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By David Twiddy, AP Business Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Are you going to be ready for retirement?

Retirement-plan ratings firm Fiduciary Benchmarks on Monday unveiled a new index that measures how well 401(k) plans for thousands of companies are preparing their employees.

Besides evaluating individual company retirement plans, the Retirement Readiness Index also crunches the numbers by industry, showing users whether their plans are keeping pace or falling behind their peers.

For example, the index estimates that retirement funds in the agriculture and forestry industry will, on average, provide 61% more than employees need to live comfortably in retirement. At the other end of the spectrum is data processing, hosting and related services, whose company plans the index estimates will provide 30% less than the average employee needs.

Tom Kmak, chief executive officer of Fiduciary Benchmarks, said the index isn't designed to convince someone to change careers. He noted that there is a wide variation between companies in the same industry and even among workers, depending on when they plan to retire and other factors. But he said the information should give employees and those overseeing the 401(k) plans clues as to whether they need to make changes.

"We're trying to be the catalyst to get people to focus on the most important question: Are you going to have enough money when you retire?" Kmak said.

Users of the Web site can get a basic report showing their company's rating and the average rating for their industry for free. Companies will be able to buy more detailed reports, including a breakdown of index ratings by company and the data used to build the index, for $100.

Kmak said the company hasn't yet decided how much to charge individual users who want the additional data.

The company also sees the index as a way to funnel customers to its own financial services.

The index, designed with the help of investment consultant Bdellium, currently measures 21,000 individual company retirement plans, including most of the nation's plans with more than $10 million in assets. Company officials estimate the index covers roughly two-thirds of the 50 million Americans who have 401(k) plans.

Kmak said the information is supplied by database firm Pension Analytix using mostly publicly available information and is typically no more than two years old. Companies already included in the index can update for free certain information, such as starting wages, account balances and what the company and average participant contributes.

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