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Principal Survey: More than 6 in 10 Employees Contributed to a 403(b) Plan in 2011

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An average of 64.3% of employees eligible to participate in their organization’s 403(b) plan made contributions to the plan in 2011, new research reveals.

Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, published this finding in a summary of results from a survey of 403(b) plan sponsors. Conducted by Plans Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) and sponsored by Principal Financial, the survey polled 584 organizations with 403(b) plans, the number of plan participants ranging from one to more than 1,000.

The report finds that 403(b) plan participants contributed an average of 5.4% of their annual pay to the plan. And nearly three of in four (74.9%) of eligible active employees have a balance in the plan.

The availability of a Roth feature in 403(b) plans has doubled in the last four years, the report says. More than 1 in 5 plans (21.7%) permit Roth after-tax contributions, up from 16.9% in 2010 and 13.9% in 2009.

The report discloses that more than 3 in 4 (77.6%) of plans are ERISA-compliant. An additional 15.6% of plans are non-ERISA and 6.8% of respondents are unsure of their plan’s ERISA status (down from 10% in 2010).

The report says that 11.9% of respondents offer a defined benefit plan to essentially the same group of employees as the 403(b) plan. Of the organizations that offer a defined benefit plan, 7 in 10 (71.2%) offer a traditional DB plan.

More than 8 in 10 employees (84.3%) of the surveyed organizations are eligible to participant in their organization’s 403(b) plan. There is little variability among plan size, though eligibility does vary by industry: Hospital, foundations and research organizations allow more than 90% of their employees to participate in the plan.

The survey notes that nearly 6 in 10 (57.5%) of organizations let all employee groups participant in the plan, while 42.5% restrict participation to specific categories of employees.

Just over 4 in 10  plans (40.2%) have no age requirement for participation, while a third (33.2%) of plans require the employee to be at least 21 years old to participate the plan.

The highest percentage of employees eligible to participate in a 403(b) plan, the survey adds, include those working at hospitals (93.7%), followed by foundations (91.7%) and research/science/environmental organizations (91.3%).