2014 PLANSPONSOR Participant Survey

The PLANSPONSOR Participant Survey marks the first time PLANSPONSOR has directly examined American workers participating—or not—in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Published in PLANSPONSOR April 2014
The results of the survey found that plan participants are aware of the plan and their need to save, and many are eager for their employers to provide additional information about how to do that.

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Household finances
All<30 yrs>50 yrsHave 401(k)No 401(k)ConfidentNot Confident
Has household budget42%39%43%43%39%46%35%
Tracks spending35%39%30%37%28%38%29%
Balances statements monthly70%59%78%71%64%75%62%
Has retirement goal(s)56%39%62%60%40%73%33%
Saving for college17%11%12%19%10%22%10%
Uses a financial adviser26%11%35%29%11%35%14%
Primary source of information used when evaluating investments
All<30 yrs>50 yrsHave 401(k)No 401(k)ConfidentNot Confident
Friends or relatives17%31%13%17%NA˜16%18%
Plan website24%22%22%24%NA24%14%
Printed enrollment materials19%17%23%19%NA15%29%
Employer workshop/meeting7%6%8%7%NA6%6%
Financial adviser/planner18%6%21%18%NA20%16%
Third-party website*11%14%8%11%NA15%11%
Other resources4%3%5%4%NA4%7%
*E.g. Morningstar, etc.; ˜not applicable
Most important factors when deciding between mutual funds/investments
All<30 yrs>50 yrsHave 401(k)No 401(k)ConfidentNot Confident
Short-term performance7%12%7%7%NA8%8%
Long-term performance56%61%57%56%NA54%53%
Total fees/cost13%16%12%13%NA15%11%
Trust in fund company14%8%13%14%NA13%15%
Rank/Rating of fund6%0%9%6%NA7%9%
Other attributes2%4%2%2%NA2%4%
Importance of 401(k) plan in job decision
All<30 yrs>50 yrsHave 401(k)No 401(k)ConfidentNot Confident
Very important14%11%14%16%3%17%8%
Somewhat important17%18%18%20%7%19%18%
Somewhat unimportant6%6%4%5%10%4%9%
Very unimportant10%16%10%8%23%11%11%
Confidence that retirement income/savings goals will be achieved by age 65
All<30 yrs>50 yrsHave 401(k)No 401(k)ConfidentNot Confident
Very confident19%16%23%20%11%NANA
Somewhat confident25%23%23%26%22%NANA
Only a little confident13%11%13%13%13%NANA
Not at all confident16%14%18%14%31%NANA
Savings measures
All<30 yrs>50 yrsHave 401(k)No 401(k)ConfidentNot Confident
Deferral rate: <6%59%74%50%NANA49%74%
Deferral rate: >6%41%26%50%NANA51%26%
Total retirement savings: <$50k45%82%25%40%72%31%64%
Total retirement savings: >$50k55%18%75%60%28%69%36%
Non 401(k) savings: >$055%35%67%58%48%67%40%
Non 401(k) savings: $045%65%33%42%52%33%60%
Frequency of engagement with 401(k) plan
MonthlyEvery 3–4 MonthsTwice Per YearOnce Per YearLess Than Once Per YearNeverDon't Know
Contact call center2%4%7%8%24%53%3%
Log in to the plan’s website31%28%12%7%9%12%1%
Review account statements39%32%11%7%6%5%1%
Review/Change deferral rate15%15%16%26%13%13%2%
Review/Change investments9%16%15%21%19%18%2%
Talk with financial adviser*7%15%19%33%16%9%1%
Contact HR/benefits dept3%3%9%13%21%48%4%
*Among respondents who reported having a financial adviser
Satisfaction with resources/services associated with 401(k) plan
Very SatisfiedSatisfiedSomewhat SatisfiedNeutralSomewhat DissatisfiedDissatisfiedDon’t Know
Call center/Phone support16%12%12%10%3%2%45%
Participant website30%23%17%14%3%2%11%
Participant statements29%27%17%14%3%2%8%
Investment options23%23%20%15%5%4%11%
Plan communications21%21%19%19%6%4%10%
Helpfulness of HR staff19%14%17%16%6%9%19%
Hypothetical trade-off scenarios
Respondents were presented with two options for each of the following scenarios and selected their preference.
Scenario #1
(A) One-time $5,000 bonus50%-
(B) One-time $5,000 contribution to your 401(k) -50%
Scenario #2
(A) Three-year pay freeze46%-
(B) Three years of no employer match in the 401(k)-54%
Scenario #3
(A) 3% employer match that is immediately vested 49%-
(B) 6% employer match that becomes vested after five years-51%
Scenario #4
(A) One-time $5,000 employer contribution to your 401(k)85%-
(B) Promotion (without pay increase)-15%
Scenario #5
(A) Guaranteed 4% annual return on your savings68%-
(B) Market-based return that might exceed 4% but also could lose money-32%
Scenario #6
(A) Lower monthly health insurance premiums49%-
(B) Higher employer match to your 401(k)-51%


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The 2014 PLANSPONSOR Participant Survey was conducted via a blind online questionnaire from March 5 through 8, using a broad sample of U.S. workers from ResearchNow, an online panel provider. A total of 1,339 full-time employed adults ages 23 and older responded to the 32-question survey, which covered a range of retirement saving habits and perceptions. Among respondents, 718 (62%) currently contribute to a 401(k) plan, while 147 (12%) have access to a 401(k) but do not participate; 164 respondents (14%) are employed by organizations that offer non-401(k) defined contribution (DC) plans, and 138 (12%) have no access to any form of defined contribution plan through their employer. The final data reflect a balance of demographic attributes, including gender, race/ethnicity, household income and formal education. The sample was not weighted to reflect national averages. For more information, contact Brian O’Keefe at