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Top 10 industries for retirement preparedness

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Defined contribution plan sponsors in the utilities industry are doing a better job of preparing their workers for retirement than other industries, according to an analysis by Judy Diamond Associates that examined national retirement preparedness by industry.

“By looking at historical trends in plan performance, we saw that there were clear differences in how different industries are preparing their workers for retirement” said Eric Ryles, managing director of Judy Diamond Associates. “Employees in the utilities and mining industries saw their plans improve more often than participants in other industries.”

Each of the 20 major industry classifications described by the North American Industrial Classification System was ranked on changes to their average account balances, participation rates, employee and employer contributions, their rates of return and the number of plan red flags over a five-year period. 

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The industries were ranked across each metric based on the ratio of plans that saw improvements in performance compared to the number of plans that saw declines. The individual rankings for each metric were then combined into a single, overall score for each industry and the industries were ranked accordingly.

Judy Diamond based its research on the most recent 401(k) plan disclosure documents released by the Department of Labor. Judy Diamond provides sales prospecting and plan analysis tools for benefits brokers, financial advisors, plan providers and carriers serving the employee benefits and retirement markets.

In descending order, here is the first half of the top 10 list and the number of plans analyzed in each to compile this research:

10. Wholesale Trade – 28,549 plans

9. Educational Services – 4,412

8. Public Administration – 301

7. Finance and Insurance – 35,062

6. Arts, Entertainment and Recreation – 6,301

And on the following pages – in descending order – are the top five industries for retirement preparedness:


5. Manufacturing 

This group represents everything from food, beverage and tobacco product manufacturing to textiles, apparel, chemical, plastics, metal, machinery, electronics, transportation, furniture and other types of manufacturing. The industry code is 31-33 and 61,418 401(k) plans were analyzed for this report.


4. Management of Companies and Enterprises

This group comprises companies that hold the securities of, or other equity interests in, companies and enterprises for the purpose of owning a controlling interest or influencing management decisions. It also includes establishments that administer, oversee and manage the strategic or organizational planning and decision making role of the company or enterprise. This group saw the greatest ratio of 401(k) plans with increasing rates of return to plans with decreasing rates of return. The industry code is 55 and 1,760 plans were analyzed for this report.


3. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting, as a group, was ranked 19 out of 20 in overall participation rate, but finished third overall because of very high levels of employee and employer contributions, as well as solid plan design. The industry code is 11 and 5,417 plans were analyzed for this report.


2. Mining

This category includes minerals and precious metals mining, as well as oil and gas extraction. The NAICS code for Mining is 21 and Judy Diamond examined 3,073 401(k) plans in this industry.



The Utilities industry took the top spot. It includes companies that provide electric power, natural gas, steam supply, water supply and sewage removal. It also includes companies that provide electric power generation, transmission and distribution; natural gas includes distribution; steam supply includes provision or distribution; water supply includes treatment and distribution; and sewage removal includes collection, treatment and disposal of waste through sewer systems and sewage treatment facilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is industry code 22 and 1,832 401(k) plans in the Utilities industry were analyzed for the report.

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