Only 13% of Retirement Plan Participants Seek Out Advice

However, advice seeking increases with age, account balance and annual contribution level.

TIAA Institute analyzed the use of advice in 23 plans for which it was the sole recordkeeper between 2009 and 2014 and found that a mere 13% of participants seek out advice.

However, interest in advice increases with age, account balance and annual contribution level, according to TIAA’s report, “New Evidence on the Demand for Advice Within Retirement Plans.”

For example, among those in the lowest five deciles with regards to their account balance, only 8% seek out advice. In deciles 6 to 9, this increases to 16%, and in the top decile, it is 30%.


“Because participants with higher salaries are likely to receive lower income replacement rates from Social Security,” TIAA says, “their retirement account balances will need to cover a larger fraction of their retirement expenses. Consequently, we predict that demand for advice will increase with the level of the annual retirement contribution, which should be strongly correlated with the level of the participant’s salary. We [also] predict that demand for advice on retirement income levels will increase as participants approach, or pass, their Social Security normal retirement age.”

Age is another key factor. A mere 8% of participants between the ages of 20 and 29 seek out advice, but this increases to 9% for those 30 to 39, 12% for those 40 to 49, 15% for those 50 to 59 and 22% for those 60 and older.


TIAA also learned that interest in advice has grown since 2009, when a mere 2% of participants sought out advice, to 10% between 2012 and 2014. TIAA also discovered that participants with web access are twice as likely to seek out advice as those without web access.

On the other hand, participants who invest solely in target-date funds (TDFs)—the dominant default investment option—are significantly less likely to see out any form of advice, even during turbulent times in the market.

TIAA also discovered that participants who invest in multiple retirement plans rather than a single plan are more likely to seek out advice.

TIAA’s report can be downloaded here.