2014 SMP Participant and Annuitant Survey Overview

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SMP participant and annuitant satisfaction surveys were conducted by SURS staff in August 2014, to determine if the needs of SMP participants are being met and what changes, if any, need to be made to improve the accumulation and retirement processes.  Results may be used to change or enhance the SMP Plan and to educate participants and prospective annuitants.

Prior SMP surveys were conducted in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2010.  The results of the 2014 survey are very similar to those of the 2010 survey - very favorable.  Results indicate that the rating of the plan’s Overall Investment Performance increased considerably from the 2010 survey, which mirrors the performance of the equity market over the past five years. 

The survey included seven age categories, plus an annuitant category.  The segregation was used to determine any age-related trends in attitudes based on the demographics of the SMP participants.  All 10,607 SMP members with valid e-mail addresses in SURS system received an e-mail invitation to participate in the survey. In total, 744 (seven percent) completed surveys were received.  Comments were included with 168 of the completed surveys. The distribution of responses by age category is, as follows:


Age Category
Number of Responses
Percentage of Respondents
65 and over
Total Participants
Total Annuitants


Participant Survey Summary
Communication continues to be very important to members. The Member Website is increasingly viewed as a valuable tool and participant registration on the site is up. Nearly 90 percent of the participants rated SURS service, including communication, problem resolution, reallocating contributions and moving money between providers, as “Good” to “Excellent.”

Approximately 38 percent of the responding survey participants said they would be interested in receiving third-party investment advice; however, only 15 percent would be willing to pay a fee. In addition, 58 percent of respondents would be interested in receiving investment advice from their current fund provider. Sixty-six percent of responding participants indicated they would like to see SURS allow “partial distributions.”

Approximately 25 percent of respondents provided favorable comments relating to communications, specifically, one-to-one appointments, webinars, seminars, laws, rules and general communication items.  More investment options were requested by 12.5 percent of respondents, with a few specifically requesting Vanguard.  Approximately 10 percent of the respondents commented on members’ inability to change to either of the defined benefit (DB) plans because of life-changing events, not understanding all options when the plan choice was made, or not having enough time to make a decision.  Another 10 percent expressed overall satisfaction with the SMP because 1) they feel they have control of their money, 2) they are fearful of the state’s financial condition and lack of funding for the DB plans, and 3) overall they are comfortable with the “401(k)” approach.

Annuitant Survey
A total of 189 SMP annuitants were invited to participate in the survey, and 38 (20.1 percent) responded.  The average age of the respondents was 65 with 11.5 years of service and 3.3 years as a benefit recipient.

Open comments were made by 10 respondents.  Most comments centered on members’ dissatisfaction with the brief amount of time allowed to make a plan choice election.  Several respondents commented on the negative effect the SURS SMP pension has on Social Security benefits and one expressed displeasure with the health insurance options.

Survey participants expressed very good overall satisfaction with the investment providers, good overall satisfaction with the annuity providers, and very good overall satisfaction with SURS.  The lowest rated area was “Overall help with making retirement decisions” which was the only area rated below “Very Good.”  Other comments concerned SURS website, Unified Statements and the number of available investment options.  SURS staff is exploring ways to respond to the comments through SURS website and The Advocate and to incorporate suggestions into the Unified Statements.  Staff will continue to consider potential investment options suitable for inclusion in the SMP.

To view all survey questions and results click here.