Maybe it’s just me, but people always seem to be clamoring for my opinion. For example, my receipt from the automotive repair shop tempts me with a $5 coupon toward my next oil change if I call and complete a survey. Or I get calls on my home phone (so 2008, I know) pelting me with questions about my political views, or even more intrusive, my choice in paper products. It’s enough to drive me off the questionnaire cliff.

So you might think it’s strange that I want to talk to you about surveys, or even encourage you to complete one. But I have a good reason why. When you take the 403(b) plan survey from the Plan Sponsor Council of America, you’ll get much more out of it than a discounted oil change.

There are multiple benefits. First of all, it provides benchmarking data for all 403(b) plan sponsors, which wouldn’t exist without this survey. The more responses received, the better the data. Second, each 403(b) plan sponsor that completes the survey gets a free copy of the results. PSCA normally charges $395 for a copy of the survey. In other words, participation automatically gives them the benchmarking data. The survey can be found at You have until March 15th to complete it.

Why is taking the survey so important for you — and the PSCA?

For any employer, including non-profit organizations, attracting and retaining personnel is a key objective. In order to do that, the organization needs to be able to offer competitive compensation and benefits. There is simply no way to know if these things are competitive, or if changes need to be made to keep them competitive, unless benchmarking is done.

The benefits of benchmarking are numerous. For example, benchmarking can potentially help improve performance by pointing out where strengths and weaknesses may exist. Benchmarking may also overcome paradigm shifts and paradigm blindness — two terms that describe the inability to see the changing world while you’re wrapped up in the way things are currently done.

For sponsors of 403(b) plans, it was practically impossible to benchmark their plans prior to the 2008 PSCA’s Benchmarking Survey of 403(b) Plans, reflecting 2007 plan experience. Prior to that survey, there was scant information across the industry available for 403(b) plan sponsors to be able to effectively benchmark the provisions in their plans.

That’s why the Principal Financial Group has proudly served as the sponsor of this survey, ever since the Plan Sponsor Council of America (then known as the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America) approached us with the sponsorship opportunity. While we knew we could help our clients benchmark against our own client base, and we knew other service providers could do the same, we also knew that wasn’t a true market benchmarking. As an independent research organization, PSCA could provide previously non-existent market benchmarking for 403(b) plan sponsors.

In order for this to work, though, 403(b) plan sponsors have to be willing to fill out the survey. That’s the purpose of today’s post — to appeal to financial professionals to who service 403(b) plan to pass on the link to their clients, and to appeal to 403(b) plan sponsors themselves to complete this year’s survey.

Oh, did I mention that by participating in the PSCA survey, you also get an invitation to a PSCA sponsored webinar where Bob Benish from PSCA, a 403(b) plan sponsor representative and I will discuss the results? 403(b) plan financial professionals will be free to join as well. You can join for a live chat and pick my brain about 403(b) plans. It’s a great opportunity to soak up a lot of great 403(b) plan info.

Friedman is the tax-exempt national practice leader with the Principal Financial Group, an investment management and retirement leader. A noted expert on 403(b) plan design, he has been consulting with tax-exempt organizations for over 20 years and has been in the retirement plan business since 1986. This blog originally ran on The Principal blog. Follow Aaron on Twitter @1AaronFriedman1

Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company.  Securities are offered through Princor Financial Services Corporation, 1-800-547-7754, member SIPC and/or independent broker dealers.  Securities sold by a Princor® Registered Representative are offered through Princor.  Princor and Principal Life are members of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.

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