Benefits and Compensation

Retirement Survey Results–How Do You Compare?

Only 33% of those who answered the question, however, automatically enroll employees, though 2.5% plan to implement auto-enrollment in the future.

Other survey highlights:

  • Most common match amount is up to 6% of salary (25% of respondents).
  • Nearly half (48%) of employers offer more than 15 investment options.
  • 26% plan to add a defined contribution plan; 3% plan to eliminate one.

Here are the detailed survey results. How does your organization measure up?, now thoroughly revamped with easier navigation and more complete compensation information, will tell you what’s being paid right in your state—or even metropolitan area—for hundreds of jobs. Try it at no cost and get a complimentary special report. Read more.

Employee contributions

When the employee enrollment in defined contribution plans is automatic, the percent of employee earnings initially contributed is less than 3% for 27% of the employers who responded to this question in our survey. It is 3% for 43% and 4% of employee earnings for 12%. The employee contribution is 5% of their earnings for 7% and 6% of earnings for 6% of them. So, on average, more than 6% of their earnings is contributed for 6% of survey participants.  

The number of employees that voluntarily participate in their 401(k) or 403(b) plans is less than 30% for 26% of the employers participating in our survey, 31% to 70% for 35% of them, and above 70% for 39%.

The percentage of their earnings that employees begin with when contributing to voluntary 401(k) or 403(b) plans is less than 3% of base salary for 25% of our survey participants. It’s 3% of earnings for 30% and 4% of salary for 16%. Responses to our survey show that employees begin their contributions at a rate of 5% of their base salary for 14% of employers, at 6% of salary for 12%, and over 6% of earnings for 3% of employers.

The practice of employees adding the “cash-out” for their unused vacation or sick time to their 401(k) or 403(b) plans is permitted by 5% of employers and 3% are considering whether to allow it.

The maximum amount an employee may contribute annually to their 401(k) or 403(b) plan for 93% of employers is the highest amount allowed by the IRS, which is $17,500 for 2013.

Employer Contributions

Though 18% have never provided an employer match, the majority (59%) of the employers responding to our survey that offer a 401(k) or 403(b) plan to their employees also provide a matching contribution. Though 10% temporarily stopped their employer match in recent years, 13% maintained their matching contributions throughout the recent recession.

The level of employers’ matching contributions:

Percent of employee earnings matched

Percent of employers

Match up to 6%


Match up to 5%


Match up to 3%


Match up to 10%


Match more than 10%


Matching employee contributions dollar-for-dollar is the practice for 38% of employers. A match rate of 75¢ to the dollar is the norm for 2%, 50¢ on the dollar is provided by 31%, and 25 cents per dollar of employee contribution is standard for 12% of employers.

The requirement for vesting of employer contribution is 5 years of service for 27% of employers and 13% require more than 5 years. Less than a year of service is required by 21% of employers, 1 year is required by 18%, 2 years is the rule for 6%, 3 years is required by 11%, and 4 years is the vesting level for 4% of employers.

Plan Features

More than 15 investment options are offered by 48% of employers and 11 to 15 options are offered by 28%. Another 16% offer 6 to 10 investment options and 8% of employers in our survey offer 1 to 5 options.

Target Date/Life Cycle funds are available for 64% of survey participants. The in-plan Roth conversion, a feature made available by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, is available for 25% and 4% are planning to add the feature.

Other retirement benefits offered by our survey participants include: defined benefit plans (23%), Roth 401(k) (30%), 457 plan (11%), profit sharing (21%), stock options (4%), employee stock ownership plan (6%), union-sponsored pension plan (3%), and/or SIMPLE or SEP (27%).

Retirement benefits in 2013 are about the same as 2012 for 85% of survey participants and more generous for 6%. It’s been 4 years or more since 29% of our survey participants conducted a comprehensive review of their retirement benefits package. A thorough review was conducted in 2012, however, by 46% and in 2011 by 15%.

Benefits Planning and Administration

When it comes to determining which retirement benefits to offer, 38% work with a consultant to create their plans and 31% evaluate the benefits offered by other companies and their competitors. An employee survey to find out what they have an interest in is conducted by 9%, and 44% are guided by the cost to the company.

Retirement benefits are managed in-house by 14% of those who responded to this question in our survey. Some of the administration of benefits is outsourced by 44% and all administration is outsourced by 42%.

Our survey shows that 11% plan to add or make changes to their retirement benefits package in 2014, 61% of employers have no additions or changes planned, and 27% are not certain at this point in time.

For those who are planning to add or make changes to their retirement benefits:

Add a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k), 403(b), or Roth 401(k).


Clean up the language of their plan documents.


Increase their employer match to their existing defined contribution plan.


Change how plan documents are distributed.


Increase the length of service required for vesting of employer contributions.


Reduce the level of their employer match.


Reduce their length of service requirement.


Eliminate current, defined contribution plans.


The addition of a defined benefit plan is planned for 5% of our survey participants, and 9% expect to increase the employer contribution to their existing plan. For 10%, however, a reduction in the employer contribution to their defined benefit plan is expected and for 4% their defined benefit plan will be eliminated altogether. The trend of moving to a defined contribution plan continues with 26% of the surveyed  employers answering this question planning to add such a plan and 23% planning to increase the employer match to their current, defined contribution plan. Another 4%, however, plan to reduce their employer match.

It’s an even split when it comes to whether employers offer financial planning assistance to their employees with 48% offering such assistance and 48% not providing this service to employees. The remaining 4% aren’t sure whether this benefit is offered.

Early retirement is an option for the employees of 16% of our survey participants. It is not offered by 78%, though, and 6% aren’t sure. Of those that do offer early retirement, 19% ask those employees to sign a waiver/release of claims against the company. Surprisingly, 55% do not make a waiver/release a requirement, and 27% are not sure.

1261 Survey Participants

Number of

Percent of

1 to 250


251 to 1,000


1,001 to 10,000


more than 10,000 


Of the participants responding to our survey, 42% have a workforce with 20% or less exempt employees. Another 33% have a workforce that is 21% to 50% exempt and 26% have a workforce with more than 50% exempt employees. Unions represent employees at 20% of our survey participant employers.

Privately held organizations are represented by 53% of survey participants and nonprofits account for 20%. Public corporations make up 11% and governments are represented by 7%. Industries include manufacturing (19%); health care and social assistance (13%); finance and insurance (9%); and professional, technical, and scientific services (8%). Educational services represent 6% of our survey participants, and retail trade accounts for 3%. 

Positions held by our 1,261 survey participants:

HR Manager


HR Director


HR VP or above


HR Generalist


HR Coordinator


HR Specialist


Other area with HR responsibilities


Thanks to all 1261 employers who participated in the survey!

Next survey topics:

  • Employee perks
  • Training and development
  • Performance management