New Year’s is a time to set goals and begin working toward achieving them. Employers that sponsor 401(k) and 403(b) plans can help employees improve their ability to enjoy a secure retirement by communicating with them about financial issues during this time of the year as one part of an effective year-long education program.
A record number of 401(k) and 403(b) plan sponsors – 38% – are actively seeking new plan advisors, according to a recent Fidelity Investments survey. That’s not a surprise given changes in the retirement plan industry. Among other things, the Department of Labor’s new Fiduciary Rule requires employers to confirm their advisors are acting as fiduciaries and in the best interests of their clients. Advisors who are unprepared have caused some employers to interview other advisors.
408(b)2 Provider Disclosures have created confusion for employers who sponsor 401(k) and 403(b) plans ever since the rules first requiring them took effect in 2012. To make matters worse, with the June 2017 effective date of the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, employers’ responsibility with respect to the disclosures increased.
There’s good news for employers! Many have been on edge as they read about the “excessive fee” lawsuits filed against retirement plan fiduciaries, some of which have made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Or they’re shaken as they hear about the detailed fee document requests and questions from Department of Labor auditors to 401(k) and 403(b) plan sponsors and the fines and penalties that can result from DOL investigations.
While lawsuits and investigations have served a purpose in lowering plan fees, a side effect is that many plan sponsors, in their concern to meet compliance standards, have made a search for the lowest fees such a priority that they have unwittingly overlooked the best way to serve plan participants! In fact, when I meet with employers, they often first tell me they need to reduce plan fees to create a “hedge of protection” for themselves.
A Qualified Default Investment Alternative – more commonly known as a QDIA – is a provision available to 401(k) and 403(b) plans that reduces the potential personal liability of plan fiduciaries while improving the ability of participants to build toward retirement. For many employers whose plan doesn’t currently have a QDIA, only a few steps are required to take advantage of its benefits.
The Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, which changes the 401(k) and 403(b) investment management landscape for both plan sponsors and advisors, took effect June 9th. Are you ready? As a plan sponsor fiduciary, your responsibility – and potential liability – just increased!
In previous blogs, we discussed how Target Date Funds can be confusing for retirement plan sponsor and participant alike. Such uncertainty can result in serious consequences: an increase in potential liability for plan sponsor fiduciaries and missed retirement income goals for participants. Now we turn to a superior investment solution for 401(k) and 403(b) plans: managed accounts.
Target-Date Funds can be a poor investment “shuttle” for plan participants, as eventually discovered by many employers who act as “Mission Control” for their corporate retirement plans. In meetings with 401(k) and 403(b) plan sponsors, I frequently learn that these employers believe they have successfully launched employees on a flight path toward retirement success by offering a Target Date Fund series in their plan. Unfortunately, plan participants invested in a Target Date Fund can find themselves financially “lost in space” when they retire, due to common misperceptions regarding TDFs, as well as the funds’ complex and often confusing nature. This backfires on the high hopes of employers to assist their employees in preparing for their financial futures.
People often say to shoot for the stars, because if you miss you’ll at least hit the moon - which is easy to say if you aren’t an astronaut! An astronaut would probably tell you that if you miss your target you’re not likely to land on the moon, but in the vast emptiness of space, drifting longer than planned and hoping your supplies will last is hardly a successful mission.