6 Retirement Benefits in Decline

Many workplace benefits have been cut since the economic downturn began and retirement benefits have been among the most commonly eliminated perks. The prevalence of traditional pensions, retiree health coverage, and even phased retirement programs have all declined since 2007, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey of 600 human resources professionals. Here's a look at which retirement benefits are rapidly disappearing.

[See 10 Essential Sources of Retirement Income.]

Traditional pension plans. The proportion of companies offering traditional pension plans that guarantee payments in retirement for life declined from 40 percent of employers in 2007 to 22 percent in 2011. Companies are instead offering 401(k)s and similar types of retirement accounts in which the employee bears the investment risk. Almost all (93 percent) of the employers SHRM surveyed offer defined-contribution accounts, up from 83 percent 5 years ago. Many companies have also added automatic enrollment (up 9 percentage points) and a Roth 401(k) option (up 15 percentage points) to their retirement plan over the past 5 years.

401(k) match. Although many employers are adding additional features to their 401(k) plans, that doesn't mean they're contributing additional money to them. The proportion of employers providing matches for defined contribution retirement plans fell 5 percentage points from 75 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2011.

[See 7 Signs of a Good 401(k) Plan.]

Retiree health insurance. Don't expect your employer to provide health insurance for you and your spouse in retirement. While over a third (35 percent) of companies offered retiree health coverage in 2007, only a quarter continue to provide this benefit.

Long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance was offered at nearly half (46 percent) of the companies SHRM surveyed in 2007. Now just 29 percent of employers help workers prepare for possible long-term care expenses.

Subsidized elder care. While never a popular employee benefit, the percentage of employers subsidizing the cost of elder care has declined from very small (4 percent) in 2008 to almost nonexistent (1 percent) in 2011. The proportion of employers offering access to an elder care referral service also fell from 22 percent five years ago to 9 percent this year.

[See How to Strengthen Your Retirement End Game.]

Phased retirement programs. Some employers offer programs that allow workers to gradually ease into retirement by cutting back the number of hours or days per week they work. In 2007, 12 percent of the employers surveyed offered formal phased retirement programs, but that proportion has since declined to 5 percent in 2011.