Join our Community


PSCA Reveals Results of Benchmark Survey of Non-Qualified Defined Contribution Plans

The Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) today announced the results of its 2016 Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plan Survey, a follow-up to its 2011 study.  This report is intended to provide insight into common and best practices, and to facilitate dialogue within the industry. It will also serve as the only independent source of plan benchmarking data for sponsors and advisors. 

The survey of non-qualified deferred compensation (NQDC) plan sponsors, conducted earlier this year, generated 303 responses from employers who either offer a non-qualified plan now or intend to do so within the next year. Respondents were employers of all sizes and industries (ex.  manufacturing, services, distribution, retail, technology, financial services, and healthcare). 

The survey found that the most common reason employers offer a NQDC plan is to offer a competitive benefit package to key employees (58 percent of respondents) followed by retaining eligible employees (38 percent). Clearly, employers consider their NQDC plan to be a key component in attracting and retaining top talent. 

“PSCA has produced a very important and valuable survey for employers that have either adopted or considered nonqualified deferred compensation plans,” said Bruce J. McNeil, a partner at The Wagner Law Group in Boston. Mr. McNeil is one of the foremost experts on Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plans and Executive Compensation, and is chair of PSCA’s Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Research Committee. “It offers insights to help plan sponsors develop these employee benefits, including ERISA requirements, eligibility, funding, and vesting.”  

Said Steve McCaffrey, PSCA’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, “Our thanks go to the NQDC committee for its leadership and contributions to this project. The information from this survey will be invaluable as PSCA continues to expand our lobbying and research beyond defined contribution plans to other types of benefits plans our plan sponsor members offer to their employees.”

Key plan design findings include:

  • Nearly half of plans (48 percent) allow both employee and employer contributions, while 29 percent allow only employee contributions, and 23 percent allow only employer contributions. 
  • 71 percent of plans allowing employer contributions make a match, the most common being a fixed match. 
  • 42 percent offer participants the opportunity to make “in-service” distribution elections. 
  • Two thirds allow participants to choose installment payments in addition to lump sum distributions. 
  • Half allow their participants to “re-defer” distribution elections as permitted by Section 409A.
  • Most plans offer participants a menu of investment options, with more than half (57 percent) offering the same as the menu as offered in their qualified DC plan. 

The full survey is available for purchase at

For more information, please contact Hattie Greenan at