When it comes to retirement plan contributions, 401(k) participants are more aggressive in funding their plans than people in 403(b) plans, says a recent study by the Spectrem Group. The two sides also differ in the way they use financial advisors.


The report found 48% of 401(k) participants defer at least 6% of their earnings into their retirement plan compared to 38% for those in 403(b) plans. The latter group are employees of school systems or non-profit organizations.


In addition, 52% of 403(b) participants said their investment philosophy is very or somewhat conservative, compared to 43% for 401(k) folks. And only 57% of 403(b) participants receive contributions from their employers versus 74% for those in 401(k)s.


The study, Participants in 401(k) and 403(b): Are They Different?, compares participants in the two types of defined contribution plans and is based on interviews with 205 401(k) plan members and 196 403(b) plan members.


Among the conclusions: roughly one-half of both respondent groups say they use a financial advisor. For those in 403(b)s, two-thirds work with an advisor who's a representative of the retirement plan provider and one-third use an advisor with no ties to the provider. Those ratios are reversed among 401(k) people who use an advisor.


In both groups, two-thirds of the participants say they've been with their advisor for at least three years.