Top corporate executives - those with such titles as chairman of the board, President, chief executive or executive vice president - have to make financial plans for retirement, too.

Although these persons are a relatively small slice of the population, but with average incomes that far exceed those of most American citizens, corporation executive retirement plans are an important element in attracting good managers. The top business people often make careers where they will be taken care of when their age reaches 65 to 70.

And, in the Washington region, most major corporations offer some executive retirement plan although long-term and short-term incentive plans while on the job are lagging behind the level of such benefits at large national firms.

According to the management consulting firm of Towers, Forster & Crosby, which has surveyed 100 of the largest publicly traded firms in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, 82 companies have qualified pension plans, i.e., they received preferential tax treatment under provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.

For 35 of the firms, pension plans are used exclusively. But the majority of the 82 firms, 47, also have at least one other plan. Only one company had no formal program.

According to the Towers, Perrin data:

Supplemental executive retirement plans exist at 27 of the regional firms, ranging from formal plans for the senior management group to contracts with two or three top executives.

There are employe stock purchase plans at 24 of the firms and these programs are equally common in banks and industrial firms.

Eight companies reported Tax Reduction Act employe stock ownership plans.

Profit-sharing plans, designed to contribute a specified amount of company earnings to individual accounts established for all participants, are used exclusively by 11 firms.

Among the 100 firms, 21 had no provisions for any incentive compensation, 10 have short-term awards only and 20 provided only longer term awards. Of 100 top industrial firms nationally, 96 have short-term awards, 93 have long-term awards and 89 have both.