Retirement Saving in a Multi-Plan Environment

May 2017

Compared to the private sector, the retirement-saving landscape in the public sector is much more complex, as exemplified by North Carolina’s public school districts.


Many North Carolina public school employees need to decide not only how much to contribute to their retirement plan, but also which plan among several offered is most appropriate. In some cases, they also must choose among numerous plan vendors. This study examines the decisions these employees make and the implications for retirement saving in a multiplan environment.

Key Insights
A third of North Carolina public school employees contribute to a retirement plan.
Only a tenth of plan participants contribute to two or more plans.
Highly compensated employees show no tendency to use secondary plans to exceed annual contribution limits.

The researchers sent a survey to the chief financial officer, director of business operations or director of human resources at each of the 115 NC public school districts. Individual payroll records from roughly half the districts were then matched with the survey data. This enabled the researchers to compile a dataset of plan types available to 71,156 employees and respective contributions made by different categories of employee.