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2021 Retirement Research

Plan Sponsors and their advisors consider many factors when evaluating and defining retirement plan design. Use findings from our 9th national survey to add insight and value in your discussions and deliberations about participant behaviors and plan features.

Retirement Research Archive

Get the inside information—from the biggest obstacles workers wrestle with to how employers can help with retirement readiness, explore our archive of previous retirement plan participant and plan sponsor research studies. 

2020 Research: Participants Talk Saving, Retirement Plans and Risk

Plan Sponsors and their advisors consider many factors when evaluating and defining retirement plan design. One of those should be understanding participant sentiments about saving and retirement benefits. Use findings from our 8th national survey to add insight and value in your discussions and deliberations about participant behaviors and plan features.

Recurring Retirement Themes; New Lenses

As in years past, participants express savings regrets and a reliance on employers. From progressive plan design to laying the foundation for success, employees share how much they value retirement benefits and the decisions plan sponsors make on their behalf.

New this year, generational and gender lenses, as well as the unique pandemic backdrop, provide additional perspective on the findings.

Key Findings
The survey was conducted at the beginning of the pandemic. Although respondents could not have anticipated the coming weeks and months, they expressed their regrets about past saving behavior, the value they place on the roles of their employers and interest in holistic advice and a retirement income solution.
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Generational Differences
Retirement plan participants showed several differences among three generations in the workplace. From retirement expectations to financial worries and employee benefits, each group expressed distinct preferences.
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Gender Differences
Men and women conveyed differences in views around saving, investment advice and risk.
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Research Insights for Retirement Advisors and Plan Sponsors

  • Recognize the role emotions play in finances, including about retirement plans, regardless of generation or gender.

  • Embrace automatic features participants want.

  • Evaluate plan investments and services through the lens of participants, especially regarding ESG, retirement income and holistic advice.

  • Consider risk in all its forms for investment decisions.

The survey was conducted between March 10 and 31, 2020. Survey included 1,508 full-time workers between 25 and 65 saving through their employer’s retirement plan. The data were weighted to reflect the makeup of key demographics (gender, income, and education) among all American private sector participants between 25 and 65. Percentages in the tables and charts may not total 100 due to rounding and/or missing categories. Data collection and analysis were completed by Mathew Greenwald and Associates of Washington, D.C.

2019 Survey of Plan Sponsors and Retirement Savers

Plan Participants and Sponsors Agree—and Disagree—on Retirement Features

Our 7th annual survey includes findings of plan participants as well as sponsor perspectives. But, are they on the same page? Get the inside information—from the biggest obstacles workers continue to wrestle with how employers can help with retirement readiness. Watch highlights from the survey.

Download 2019 Key Findings [PDF]
American workers give insight into their struggles. Biggest regret? Not saving more.

Download 2019 Key Plan Sponsor Findings [PDF]
Employers with advisors are more satisfied with employee education.

Compare and Contrast Participant and Sponsor Views [PDF]
Employees and employers differ on “nudges” and risk but agree on debt as a saving obstacle.

Plan participant survey was conducted in first quarter 2019 and included 1,500 respondents between the ages of 25 and 65, currently working full-time outside the government. The data were weighted to reflect the makeup of key demographics (gender, income, and education) among all American private sector participants between the ages of 25 and 65. Plan sponsor survey was conducted in first quarter 2019 and included 500 defined contribution plan decision-makers. Plans ranged from $10 million to more than $250 million in plan assets. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding and/or missing categories. Data collection and analysis were completed by Mathew Greenwald and Associates of Washington, D.C.

2018 Survey of Retirement Savers

American Workers Regret Not Saving Enough; Look to Their Workplace for Help

Our 6th annual survey of investors of all ages revealed again that employees rely heavily on employers for retirement planning and saving. The biggest challenges workers face is the ability to save well enough and early enough as they juggle other financial obligations. Watch highlights from the survey, as well as our top retirement savings tips.

Download & Share 2018 Key Findings [PDF]
American workers regret not saving enough and look to their workplace for help.

Download & Review 2018 Full Report [PDF]
Investors rely heavily on their employers for planning and saving for retirement.

The survey was conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates on behalf of American Century Investments in May 2018. Survey included 1,501 full-time individuals between 25 and 65 saving through their employer’s retirement plan and/or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The data was weighted to reflect the makeup of key demographics (gender, income, and education) among all American private sector investors between the ages of 25 and 65 (according to estimates from the 2012 U.S. Consumer Population Survey).

Employees Want Plan Features that Accelerate Retirement Savings

View the video to review findings from our 5th national survey of DC Plan Participants and gain insight into their mindset.

Download 2017 Survey Brochure [PDF]
Review key takeaways from our recent study, which compares the views of 457 and 401(k)/403(b) plan sponsors.

The survey was conducted between July 27 and August 3, 2017. Respondents included full-time workers between 25 and 65, currently participating in their employer’s retirement plan, intending to retire at some point and not working for the government. A total of 1,504 respondents completed the survey. The data was weighted to reflect the makeup of key demographics (gender, income, and education) among all American private sector plan participants between the ages of 25 and 65 (according to estimates from the 2012 U.S. Consumer Population Survey).

Percentages in the tables and charts may not total to 100 due to rounding and/or missing categories.

Data collection and analysis were completed by Mathew Greenwald and Associates of Washington, D.C.

The Keys to the Kingdom—Employees Look to Employers for Answers

Who holds the keys to the kingdom, really? DC plan participants believe they would have more retirement savings if their employer had done everything possible to help them. Help your clients get insight into what participants think about workplace savings plans and the expectations they have of their employers about saving for retirement. Hear more about the high expectations participants have of their employers to help set a positive direction.

Download 2016 Survey Brochure
Employers have abundant opportunities to structure plans that drive more effective and efficient retirement preparations for their employees.

Download 2016 Survey Overview
Employees are looking to their employers for answers. Review high-level results from the 4th annual national survey of DC plan participants.

Watch Survey Highlights
View the video to review findings from our 4th national survey of DC Plan Participants and gain insight into their mindset.

The survey was conducted between February 23 and March 7, 2016. Respondents included full-time workers between 25 and 65, currently participating in their employer's retirement plan, intending to retire at some point and not working for the government. A total of 1,504 respondents completed the survey. The data was weighted to reflect the makeup of key demographics (gender, income, and education) among all American private sector plan participants between the ages of 25 and 65 (according to estimates from the 2012 U.S. Consumer Population Survey).

Percentages in the tables and charts may not total to 100 due to rounding and/or missing categories.

Data collection and analysis were completed by Mathew Greenwald and Associates of Washington, D.C.

Who's in the Driver's Seat? Participants Just Want to Ride Along

Understand Plan Sponsor and Participant Perceptions
Plan sponsors have perceptions about their participants and vice versa. Understanding how each thinks about their retirement plans can help identify gaps in automatic saving and investment program offerings. Review the results of our 2015 national survey for insights that can assist your clients.

Our 2015 National Plan Sponsor Study Found:

  • Plan sponsors underestimate how much support employees want in saving for retirement.

  • Employees want more intervention from their plan sponsors.

Download 2015 Key Findings
Understand plan sponsors' perceptions around plans, participants and partners.



The participant survey was conducted between February 4 and 19, 2015. Respondents included full-time workers between ages 25-65, participating in their employer's retirement plan, intending to retire at some point and not working for the government. A total of 2,031 respondents completed the survey. The data were weighted to reflect the make up of key demographics (gender, income and education) among all American private sector plan participants between the ages of 25 and 65 (according to estimates from the 2012 U.S. Consumer Population Survey).

Plan Sponsor Study: Assumptions, Assessments and Actions

Plan Sponsor Views of Participant Support and Advisor Partnerships
Watch a discussion on the survey’s key findings to better understand plan sponsors’ perspectives on retirement plans. This study offers insight into:

  • How employers view their plan objectives

  • Support from advisors and service providers

  • Plan Sponsors’ beliefs around employee behavior

Download 2014 Plan Sponsor Survey [PDF]
Download the full 2014 Plan Sponsor Survey, Assumptions, Assessments and Actions.

This survey was conducted between February 8 and March 3, 2014. Respondents were screened to include only those who currently work for a private or publically-held company or organization that was founded prior to 2010 and offers a defined contribution plan with plan assets of less than $100 million for which the respondent has considerable influence. A total of 310 sponsors participated including 104 whose company has plan assets under $25 million, 78 between $25 million and $50 million, 75 between $50 million and $75 million, and 53 between $75 million and $100 million. The data were balanced to reflect the makeup of the total defined contribution population by plan asset size.

Data collection and analysis were completed by Mathew Greenwald and Associates, Inc., of Washington, D.C. 

Plan Participant Study: Reflections in the Mirror

Plan participants recognize the importance of saving for the future and the risks of not having enough in retirement. Yet there continues to be a gap between acknowledgement and action.

A  survey among pre-retirees aged 55-65 and workers between 25-54 gives a better understanding about their attitudes about saving for retirement including:

  • How savings barriers can be overcome

  • What employers can do to address participants’ needs

  • The role financial advisors should play

  • The importance of defined contribution plans

Download 2014 Plan Participant Survey [PDF]
Download the full PDF of the 2014 plan participant study, Reflections in the Mirror.

The survey was conducted between February 8 - 19, 2014. Respondents included full-time workers between ages 25 and 65, participating in their employer’s retirement plan for at least the past 5 years, intending to retire at some point and not working for the government. A total of 1,619 respondents completed the survey. Data was weighted to reflect the makeup of key demographics (income, gender and education) of all American private sector plan participants between 25 and 65 (according to estimates from the 2012 U.S. Consumer Population Survey). Data collection and analysis were completed by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc., of Washington, D.C.

Through the Rearview Mirror

Watch as Diane Gallagher, vice president, discusses key findings of an American Century Investments® study of 1,000 pre-retirees.

Learn what these individuals wish they had done differently in terms of retirement savings and how employers' decisions make a difference.

Download 2013 Survey Highlights [PDF]
Highlights of a national survey among plan participants approaching retirement.

The survey was conducted in February 2013 among 1,054 full-time employed individuals between the ages of 55 and 65 who are currently participating in their employer-sponsored retirement plan. Data were balanced to key demographics (income, gender and education) of all American private sector plan participants between 55 and 65 according to estimates from the 2012 U.S. Consumer Population Survey. Data collection and analysis were completed by Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc., of Washington, D.C. 

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This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.

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