SURVEY SAYS: Questions for Employees/Participants

January 27, 2014 ( – Plan sponsors can know many things about employees’ retirement planning from employee and plan demographics, but that’s not the whole picture.

In April, PLANSPONSOR will publish results from our 2014 Participant Survey, and last week, we asked NewsDash readers for help. 

The number one thing responding readers said they would like to know about employees/retirement plan participants is why they do not participate in their retirement plan (74.1%). This was followed closely (70.4%) by “What financial education do they need that we currently do not offer?”  

Other choices given to given to respondents were selected as follows:

  • Do they have money saved for retirement in vehicles other than our retirement plan? (51.9%);
  • What other financial issues are they struggling with besides saving for retirement? (44.4%);
  • Do they read the retirement plan materials sent to them via regular mail? (40.7%);
  • How can we deliver a message they will read (regular mail, e-mail, text, on a website, etc.)? (59.3%);
  • Do they know how to log in to our benefits website? (22.2%); and
  • Why do they not use the informational and educational material posted on our benefits website? (25.9%).


“Other” (22.2%) responses included:

  • I often see participant surveys that indicate that participants want more of services we already offer (but they do not seem to use) – rather than coming up with a survey that is sure to create a “wish list” of things they won’t really use, it would be nice to know what they use and appreciate most about their workplace retirement plans. I’d also like to know if they previously worked for an employer that didn’t offer a retirement plan, and what role (if any) that played in their decision to work for an employer that does.
  • How much do you think you will need in retirement?
  • What could we do to make you enroll in the 401(k) Plan?
  • How prepared for retirement do they feel financially?
  • Do they understand how the investments in the plan work?
  • Why do you say you’d like an annuity option, but never take it?
  • If you could not access your 401k savings prior to retirement, would you contribute less?
  • Is the ability to save on a pre-tax basis important to you?
  • Do the headlines about retirement savings shortfalls discourage or encourage your own actions?

More than three-fourths (77.8%) of respondents indicated participant financial health/retirement readiness is already adequately covered by available industry research, and more than one-quarter (27.8%) said participants needs/expectations related to overall employer benefits offerings is already adequately covered. Eleven percent each said the same about participant needs/expectations related to communications and education and non-participant behaviors. In “other” responses, a reader said none of these topics is adequately covered and others said employees’ retirement confidence and desire for advice are.

Readers were asked to submit a question and potential answer choices that they think we should use in our survey. Most were about what would entice employees to participate.  Here is a sampling of questions.:

  • How much would you be willing to pay for your 401(k)?;
  • If your plan provides for participant loans, what would factor in to your decision whether or not to take a loan?;
  • What is the main reason for not participating in your 401(k) plan?;
  • What would it take to make you enroll in our 401(k) Plan?;
  • What is your biggest fear about retirement?;
  • How do we change the attitude that government should provide for retirement?;
  • Have you considered what non-financial education you need to prepare you for retirement?;
  • It is important to me that my retirement plan offer company stock as an investment option (answers from strongly disagree to strongly agree);
  • Why did you invest your money in the fund(s) you chose?;
  • Do you feel your employer has provided you enough information concerning your expected benefits at retirement vs. expected expenses?; and
  • Do you feel you have been provided adequate information regarding your retirement plan and, if so, are you pleased with the benefit the plan provides?


Respondents were told, if their question is selected for our survey, they will receive a free copy of our survey report. However, there was a very big flaw in my survey set up, pointed out by one commenter, and my Editor’s Choice for the week: “So, how do you plan to notify the winner of your submissions? Or are you going to announce the winning question and trust the right person to come forward?”

Those who submitted questions for consideration for PLANSPONSOR’S survey (answered question 3 of my survey), please e-mail me with your contact information and your question so I can match it to the survey response.

Thanks to everyone who participated.  Your responses are very helpful!


so, how do you plan to notify the winner of your submissions? or are you going to announce the winning question and trust the right person to come forward?

With multiple eligibility because of CBA's, it becomes an "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" situation once past the new employee orientation.

Plans need to install auto-enroll to get more employees to save. It's not a lot of work for the plan sponsor, and the employees will thank them in the end!

What is main reason for you participating / not participating in the plan?

Don't think people really spend much time answering them so not sure how reliable conclusions based on them are.

"I didn't have the time to respond but I surely might be interested in seeing the stuff later, maybe." "See ya, reality tv is on and I can't miss it.' Kinda sums it up, eh.

Important as such insights are, I think they have to be taken with a grain of salt (and sometimes a whole cannister). Based on my experiences and the reading of such surveys, I wonder sometimes about the reliability or voracity of the responses. It would be nice to be able to "check" the answers - what they say they would do versus reality


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.


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Please contact the PLANSPONSOR Reprint Manager, Michelle Judkins.