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3 ways Congress can meaningfully reform 401(k)s

This article from Employee Benefit Advisor's Alexander Assaley drives home three points on improving 401(k)s - (1) improve coverage, (2) update antiquated testing results, and (3) expand limits while maintaining choices. How do you, as an employer, feel about these points?


In both the House and Senate’s tax bills there are no significant changes made to 401(k), 403(b) and IRA retirement accounts — for now. Congress has preserved the majority of tax benefits. However, we are only getting started, and there is still room for improvement. The drafted bills will look different, perhaps significantly so, before getting finalized into law.

Bloomberg/file photo

As our elected officials debate and negotiate tax legislation, I’d like to offer some input and advice on key characteristics and design structures that we should be advocating for with respect to retirement plans, and how advisers and benefits professionals can work to continually improve the private retirement system:

1) Improving coverage. One of the chief complaints from 401(k) critics is that many workers in this country don’t have access to a plan. Various research indicates that somewhere between 50%–65% of employees have access to a 401(k) or 403(b) and the remaining don’t.

This coverage gap primarily extends to part-time and “gig” workers, as well as small businesses with less than 30 employees. Retirement plan advisers and practitioners need to create forward-thinking solutions to provide these employees with access to employer-sponsored and tax qualified retirement plans.

Most of all, we can shrink the coverage gap if we get small businesses to establish plans. Both data and anecdotal evidence find that the biggest drivers for small businesses to create and offer retirement plans are 1) tax benefits to the owners and executives; and 2) simple, easy to use programs with minimal liability. This is where some of the tax policy or other reforms could really help.

2) Updating antiquated testing rules. While we often cite the $18,500 (or $24,500 for those eligible to make catch-up contributions) employee deferral limits for retirement plans in 2018, the practical nature is that a lot of highly compensated employees, HCEs, (including small business owners) are limited to contributing at much lower levels due to various non-discrimination tests.

While the spirit of non-discrimination testing is just — ensuring business owners and executives aren’t structuring their plans to limit or prevent their employees from benefiting, or inequitably benefiting owners and their family members — the current structure significantly dis-incentivizes the small business owner from offering a plan in the first place because they can’t maximize their benefit.

Let me be clear, we are big proponents of matching and profit sharing contributions, and want to see employers help their employees get on track for retirement too; however, the current safe harbor provisions with immediate, or short vesting schedules, along with cumbersome testing requirements, often cause too big of a hurdle for the small business owners to commit and therefore, short changes their employees with no plan at all.

I would love to see tax reform improve safe harbor provisions and/or testing components that might make it easier for business owners and HCEs save up to the limit without concerns of failed testing or hefty safe harbor contributions. Practically speaking, these workers need to save more in order to meet their retirement income needs, since Social Security will make up a small percentage of their income replacement, and the 401(k) is the best place to make it happen.

3) Expanding limits and maintaining choice. Just before Congressional Republicans announced their tax bill, a group of Senate Democrats unveiled a plan which would actually raise limits for 401(k) plans. While our research aligns with many other studies that the vast majority of savers don’t reach the annual limits, we would be in favor of expanding the limits — even if it only allowed for Roth-type contributions above the $18,500 (or $24,500) limits.

Additionally, we think an employee’s ability to select either Roth or pre-tax contributions is critical. While the tax preferential treatment of defined contribution plans is just one component that makes these vehicles so valuable, it has definitely emerged and remained as the “branding tool” that encourages so many workers to get into the plan in the first place.

Source:

Assaley A. (10 November 2017). "3 ways Congress can meaningfully reform 401(k)s" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-ways-congress-can-meaningfully-reform-401-k-s

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15 Most Expensive States for Long-Term Care: 2017

Are you reaching retirement? Then, perhaps, you've already looked into the affordability of long-term care, and - well - it's not as affordable as you thought. If you're looking to get the most out of your retirement budget, then you may want to stray away from these 15 most expensive states for long-term care, as of 2017.

This article is brought to you by Think Advisor, and it was written by Marlene Y. Satter. You can read the full article here.


Genworth’s annual study on the cost of care nationwide, which includes home care, assisted living facilities, etc., is not reassuring

The price of long-term care insurance is high—for everyone involved. Not just the patient but also the caregivers pay in more than money to make sure that the person in need of care is given the best care they can manage.

In this year’s version of Genworth Financial’s annual study on the cost of care nationwide—not just in nursing homes, which are less and less on the forefront, but also care provided at home, adult day care and assisted living facilities—the news is not reassuring. Costs have risen steadily, with those for licensed homemakers—those who provide what the study calls “hands-on personal care” for patients still in their homes—rising the fastest, increasing 6.17% just since last year.

And of course since people would prefer to stay in their homes, that’s going to hit a lot of people hard.

Less-skilled “homemaker care,” such as cooking, cleaning and running errands (not included in the breakdown that follows) has risen pretty quickly as well, increasing by 4.75% since last year. But both versions of homemaker assistance are at the low end on the price scale, coming in at $21 for homemaker care and $22 for licensed homemaker care. The big bucks are elsewhere.

They may not have risen as quickly percentage-wise as the two already mentioned, but adult day care increased by 2.94% since last year to a national median rate of $70 per day. Assisted living facilities now average a median monthly rate of $3,750, an increase of 3.36% from last year, while nursing homes, at an increase of 5.50% for a private room, now run a median daily rate of $267. No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of money.

And caregivers often sacrifice their own financial well-being to care for their family members, forking over an average of $10,000 out of their own pockets for expenses that range from household expenses, personal items, or transportation services to payment of informal caregivers or LTC facilities.

A whopping 62% are paying for these expenses out of their own retirement funds; 45% have seen those costs cut their basic quality of living; and 38% have cut the amount they devote to savings and retirement to meet the costs of care.

And another sad side effect of all this stress is that 27% say it’s had a negative impact on their relationship with the person they’re caring for.

The penalty for all this devotion is that absences, reduced hours and chronic tardiness can end up cutting a caregiver’s pay. About a half of caregivers estimate that they lost approximately a third of their income.

Check out the 15 most expensive states for LTC.

Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

15. Maryland

Average Annual LTC Cost: $60,305

  • Adult day care: $2,150
  • Licensed home care: $52,281
  • Assisted living: $49,800
  • Nursing home (private room): $118,990

Prospect Terrace Park in Providence.

14. Rhode Island

Average Annual LTC Cost: $60,789

  • Adult day care: $19,500
  • Licensed home care: $57,772
  • Assisted living: $61,860
  • Nursing home (private room): $104,025

Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles.

13. California

Average Annual LTC Cost: $61,239

  • Adult day care: $20,020
  • Licensed home care: $57,200
  • Assisted living: $51,300
  • Nursing home (private room): $116,435

Seattle Sea Seahawks Fans (Photo: AP)

12. Washington

Average Annual LTC Cost: $61,704

  • Adult day care: $16,900
  • Licensed home care: $60,632
  • Assisted living: $55,920
  • Nursing home (private room): $113,362

Skier on the slopes at a Killington Resort. (Photo: AP)

11. Vermont

Average Annual LTC Cost: $63,139

  • Adult day care: $34,320
  • Licensed home care: $57,200
  • Assisted living: $49,527
  • Nursing home (private room): $111,508

State Capitol in Bismarck. (Photo: AP)

10. North Dakota

Average Annual LTC Cost: $64,010

  • Adult day care: $25,480
  • Licensed home care: $63,972
  • Assisted living: $36,219
  • Nursing home (private room): $130,367

Lobster boats in Portland.

9. Maine

Average Annual LTC Cost: $64,423

  • Adult day care: $28,080
  • Licensed home care: $53,768
  • Assisted living: $58,680
  • Nursing home (private room): $117,165

Times Square, New York City.

8. New York

Average Annual LTC Cost: $65,852

  • Adult day care: $20,800
  • Licensed home care: $54,340
  • Assisted living: $47,850
  • Nursing home (private room): $140,416

The Corbin Covered Bridge in Newport, New Hampshire. (Photo: AP)

7. New Hampshire

Average Annual LTC Cost: $66,044

  • Adult day care: $18,720
  • Licensed home care: $60,357
  • Assisted living: $58,260
  • Nursing home (private room): $126,838

Old Capitol building in Dover.

6. Delaware

Average Annual LTC Cost: $68,472

  • Adult day care: $18,850
  • Licensed home care: $50,908
  • Assisted living: $72,180
  • Nursing home (private room): $131,948

Atlantic City Beach.

5. New Jersey

Average Annual LTC Cost: $68,833

  • Adult day care: $23,400
  • Licensed home care: $52,624
  • Assisted living: $69,732
  • Nursing home (private room): $129,575

Waikiki shoreline in Honolulu.

4. Hawaii

Average Annual LTC Cost: $71,820

  • Adult day care: $18,200
  • Licensed home care: $59,488
  • Assisted living: $51,000
  • Nursing home (private room): $158,593

A statue of the Spirit of Victory in Bushnell Park in Hartford. (Photo: AP)

3. Connecticut

Average Annual LTC Cost: $72,671

  • Adult day care: $20,800
  • Licensed home care: $52,624
  • Assisted living: $55,200
  • Nursing home (private room): $162,060

Beacon Hill in Boston.

2. Massachusetts

Average Annual LTC Cost: $73,307

  • Adult day care: $16,900
  • Licensed home care: $59,488
  • Assisted living: $67,188
  • Nursing home (private room): $149,650

Crabbers on the fishing grounds in southeast Alaska. (Photo: AP)

1. Alaska

Average Annual LTC Cost: $117,800

  • Adult day care: $43,709
  • Licensed home care: $63,492
  • Assisted living: $72,000
  • Nursing home (private room): $292,000

You can read the full article here.

Source:

Satter M. (2 October 2017). "15 Most Expensive States for Long-Term Care: 2017" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2017/10/02/15-most-expensive-states-for-long-term-care-2017


Why The Financial Health Crisis Is An Employee Wellness Issue

Is your employees' financial situation affecting their well-being at the workplace? Take a look at this interesting article by Michelle Clark and find out why you should help your employees increase their financial well-being.

Every generation of worker is struggling with various financial stressors.  It’s the top cause of lost productivity.  As an HR leader, you want to help find ways to help alleviate the pressure.

Employers are starting to realize that providing their people with a fair and regular paycheck and 401(k) just isn’t good enough to ensure their financial health. And it is their problem.

We’re in the middle of a financial literacy crisis that’s affecting the financial health – and overall wellness – of every generation of worker. Too many just don’t know the ins and outs of managing their money and as a result are facing financial stress that is taking over their attention at home -- and now on the job.

As a result, we’re seeing a growing shift in the perspective of employee benefits – augmenting traditional wellness models with a strategy that’s more well-rounded and holistic, centered on the individual’s total personal health.

It’s a shift that’s good not just for employees. It’s good for the business. Many people just don’t have a lot of expendable income. Worrying about money is the top cause of lost productivity. And financial concerns push healthy behaviors like exercising and eating onto the back burner.

No generation is immune. Baby boomers are still trying to recover from the dent to their retirement savings caused by the Great Recession. Generation Xers are grappling with the emotional and financial toll of simultaneously caring for growing children and their aging parents. For Millennials, student debt is crushing.

And that retirement plan? Many employees borrow against it (not understanding the penalties) for routine expenses that they can’t cover from their paychecks.

Finding a fix starts with recognizing the financial health problem to begin with, and its impact on the employee and the workplace. Once you understand the specific pain points of your employees and the scope of their problems, a variety of tools are available to address them. Some may be employer-sponsored, while others may be offered up as low-cost voluntary benefits.

For example, employee purchasing programs help workers buy big ticket items through payroll deductions – avoiding credit card debt, hidden fees and interest charges. They are voluntary benefits that cost the employer nothing, and are administered through payroll deductions. Other services make low interest installment loans – better than the going rates in the open market – available when employees need to cover unexpected expenses. It helps them avoid predatory payday loans that can compound the financial press.

If your employees are like many, they are living paycheck to paycheck. Helping them out of this bind poses a win for everyone.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Clark M. (2017 August 10). Why the financial health crisis is an employee wellness issue [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/why-the-financial-health-crisis-is-an-employee-wellness-issue


Life Insurance Adds Value to Employer Provided Benefits

Are you looking to add more value to your employee benefits package? Adding a life insurance policy can be a great way to increase the value of your employee benefits program. Take a look at this article published by Susan M. Heathfield from The Balance and find out why you should include life insurance in your employee benefits program.

Life insurance is an employee benefit frequently offered by employers. Life insurance is an insurance policy that provides, in exchange for monthly, quarterly, or annual premium payments, a lump sum of money to the designated beneficiary of an employee who dies.

Life insurance marks an employer as an employer of choice when desirable candidates select job opportunities. It is one of the comprehensive set of benefits that employees look for when they job search and choose an employer.

Especially employees with families like the security of the safety net that life insurance provides.

Life insurance provides peace of mind for an employee who is concerned about how his or her family, or heirs, will make out financially in the event of his or her death. Life insurance provides a certain financial cushion for the employee's survivors if the employee's death is not due to his fault.

For example, life insurance carriers generally exclude some deaths, including death by suicide, civil commotion or riots, death occurring during military service, and other events that vary by policy.

Life insurance is purchased through a vast variety of options.

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance, in which the insured or his employer pays a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee for the stated amount of insurance coverage is typical. No investment or cash value accumulates or is built up in a term insurance account, but the account pays out the insured value at the death of the employee.

Some term life insurance policies have a time limit. Others increase their premium fee annually as an employee grows older. Other policies have expiration dates such as at age 70. Many financial advisors recommend term life insurance as most other insurance options cost more and involve an investment component that muddies the waters.

Permanent life insurance policies that build up cash value in the policy over time are available and are more costly. Older participants pay a substantial premium in return for the benefits as time is not available to build up the cash value of the policy.

Types of Permanent Life Insurance

The most common forms of permanent life insurance are whole life, variable life, and universal life.

Whole life insurance is insurance that you purchase as an investment because it accumulates money that you can withdraw if you experience an emergency. Whole life insurance covers your for your entire life as long as you pay the premium.

You may also cash in your policy before you die and this would cause the policy to end or no.longer cover you in the case of death. Most investors regard these policies as a bad investment. Despite the fact that you can cash them in, their rate of return is typically small.

Variable life insurance provides money to your beneficiaries when you die. What makes it variable is that it allows you to allocate part of the premium you pay to a separate account that is composed of various investment funds provided by the insurance company.

These may include a stock fund, money market account, and/or a bond fund.

They differ from whole life in that their value fluctuates based on your investments with usually a minimum guaranteed by the insurance company.

Universal life insurance has a savings component that grows on a tax-deferred basis. A portion of your premium is invested by the insurance company in bonds, mortgages and money market funds. The investments'  return rate is credited to your policy on a tax-deferred basis.

A guaranteed minimum interest rate provided by the policy, which is usually around 4%,  means that, no matter how the company's investments perform, you are guaranteed a minimum return on your money.

Understand more about the differences in these life insurance policies by reading Understanding and Choosing Life Insurance.

Life insurance is an appreciated employee benefit. Sought after employees expect life insurance as a component of a comprehensive employee benefits package.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Heathfield S. (2016 October 13). Life insurance adds value to employer provided benefits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.thebalance.com/life-insurance-adds-value-to-employer-provided-benefits-1918177


HSAs and 401(k)s are Becoming More Closely Linked

As HSAs continue to grow, more employers are starting to work HSAs into their retirement programs. Take a look at this great article by Brian M. Kalish from Employee Benefit News and see how employers are using HSAs as a tool to help their employee plan for their healthcare cost in retirement.

There has been progress among leading-edge advisers and employers to more closely link HSAs and 401(k)s in order to allow employees to use a health savings account to save for healthcare expenses post-retirement.

Eighty percent of Americans have a high concern about healthcare costs in retirement, according to Merrill Lynch, and healthcare is the largest threat to retirement savings and the most important part of a retirement income plan, according to Fidelity, which is why there has been a recent push to more closely link HSAs and 401(k)s, or health and wealth.

HSAs are triple tax-free, Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade group said at a recent event hosted by AFS 401(k) Retirement Services

The fact of linking health and wealth “is a big idea and there is some continued focus on it moving forward,” says Alex Assaley, managing principal of Bethesda, Md.-based financial services advisory company AFS 401(k).

“There is a lot more interest in HSAs by pretty much everybody,” explains Nevin Adams, chief of marketing and communications at the American Retirement Association.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, nearly 30% of employers offered an HSA-eligible health plan in 2015 and that percentage is expected to increase in the future both as a health plan option and as the only health plan option. Most of the growth has been recent as more than four-in-five HSAs have been opened since the beginning on 2011, according to EBRI.

At an event hosted by Assaley’s firm in 2016, he said there was not a lot of traction around the idea of using HSAs to save for healthcare expenses post-retirement. But, now, there is a bigger push.

As HSAs continue to grow, employers, employees and advisers are “understanding there is an ability to accumulate money in the HSA and use that for healthcare or something [employees] want to set aside because they are not sure what their healthcare cost situation in the future is going to be,” Adams explains.

Assaley adds that there has “definitely been a good deal of refinement and evolution in the HSA marketplace [recently], whereby … you are now seeing more companies offering HSAs as a part of their medical and retirement strategy. You are also seeing more employees thinking about HSAs as part of their overall holistic fin wellness program.”

In one-on-one coaching sessions with employees, conversations are becoming more prominent, as advisers help employees, “understand how all employee benefits tie together to make wise financial decisions today, tomorrow and for their retirement,” Assaley says.

“With certainty, there has been a great deal of growth in the marketplace and evolution in how HSAs and 401(k)s are starting to interlock together,” he adds.

Saving for the future
Looking down the road, Assaley expects the linking to continue, especially if proposals to alter the maximum accounts that can be contributed pre-tax to an HSA is tweaked, as has been proposed by legislators on Capitol Hill. Some proposals shared amongst the industry, Assaley says, propose doubling the pre-tax amount.

“If that happens or there is any sort of meaningful increase, then I think you will see an exponential growth in the numbers of HSAs,” he says.

For advisers, the work is not done as they need to help employees better understand how a HSA works and from there help employees understand the benefits of a HSA and the different ways to structure one, Assaley explains.

“Even today, there is a large knowledge gap on what an HSA is, how it works and how someone can use one as part of health and retiree healthcare needs,” he says.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kalish B. (2017 July 5). HSAs and 401(k)s are becoming more closely linked [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/hsas-and-401-k-s-are-becoming-more-closely-linked?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


retirement money

10 Ways Millennials are Saving for the Future

Have your millennial employees started saving for their retirement? Check out this article by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro and see what millennial across the country are doing to prepare themselves for retirement.

They’re called spendthrifts by other generations, are laden with student debt and burdened with lower-paying jobs.

But that doesn’t mean that millennials aren’t thinking about the future and saving for it.

And they could certainly use a little help—from human resources and from plan sponsors—to be more successful at it, since both the debt and the jobs don’t leave them much to work with when all expenses are accounted for.

Both HR and sponsors might want to consider how retirement savings plans and their features—auto-enrollment, auto-escalation, employer matching funds—could be tweaked to give millennials a boost in meeting major life goals and in saving for retirement, as well as for the health expenses it undoubtedly will bring along with it.

In the meantime, they can consider how millennials are already trying to stretch every dollar till it snaps—some in very unconventional ways.

In a survey, digital banking app Varo Money, Inc. has uncovered a range of methods millennials are using to make those paychecks go farther.

And while retirement is certainly on their radar, that’s not the only goal they’re pursuing; of course they have a whole life to live first. Some of their prime goals are travel, buying property and dreaming about a new car, while

Here are some of the strategies to which millennials resort in the quest to fund their futures. Can plan sponsors be less imaginative than some of these? Surely not….

10. Half of millennials surveyed save automatically.

While respondents say they aren’t fond of spreadsheets—they don’t track their money constantly, or input figures into programs like Excel or Mint to create detailed, category-based budgets—they do watch their bank balances regularly and are pretty aware of what they spend monthly.

They view it as “hands-off” money management.

What they do, however, is save automatically out of each paycheck, with 50 percent socking away a percentage every payday. So they’re prime candidates for savings plans with auto features—enrollment, escalation, etc.

report from the Society of Human Resource Management points to multiple studies indicating that auto escalation in particular—but to a high level such as 10 percent—results in higher savings for employees, since few actually opt out of a rate higher than they might have chosen for themselves.

9. Millennials are looking to climb the corporate ladder—to a higher paycheck.

An impressive 39 percent of millennials are on the prowl for a better-paying job opportunity, which is yet another reason that HR personnel and plan sponsors hoping to retain good staff might want to keep an eye on millennials’ rate of pay, as well as their rate of savings.

Reviewing other benefits wouldn’t hurt, either, since the more attractive an existing job is, the more likely an employee is to stay.

Considering the cost of finding, hiring and training replacements, a raise and better benefits might be cheaper in the long run.

8. Millennials know food is cheaper at home, especially with a partner to share it.

Millennials, despite their spendthrift reputation, are willing to skip little luxuries like the much-vaunted avocado toast or make coffee and meals at home.

In fact, 36 percent stick with the coffeepot on the counter instead of the barista at the corner, while 11 percent of men and 3 percent of women are willing to abandon the avocado toast—after all, everyone has his, or her, breaking point when economizing.

And 26 percent of respondents point out that cooking for two is cheaper than dining solo at home—much less in a restaurant.

7. Millennials recognize how much cheaper it is to live as a couple.

While 75 percent of millennials are conscious of the financial benefits in being half of a couple. 44 percent point to the cheaper rent when there are two to share the load.

And that helps them both save more.

Even those who aren’t part of a couple are looking for roommates, according to Mashable, which reports on a SmartAsset study finding that in high-rent cities like San Francisco, New York and Boston a person can save at least $700 a month by having a roommate.

Cue in the cooking-at-home technique for group meals, and the savings grow even more.

6. Millennials go on fewer dates to save money.

Being in a relationship, say 16 percent of millennials, is cheaper than still looking, since they save money by not going out on so many dates.

5. They save on taxes if they’re married.

Ever-practical, these millennials. They recognize that being half of a married couple can save on their tax bill—and they don’t forget that either when looking for cash to stash for the future.

4. They bargain-hunt for credit card perks.

Make no mistake, among millennials travel is a big deal: 58 percent said travel destinations are their favorite topic of conversation.

And asked what they would purchase with $2,000 if they could only spend it on one thing, 25 percent said plane tickets.

As a result, they tend to be particularly savvy when it comes to being able to travel, with 16 percent seeking out credit cards that provide big mileage bonuses.

3. They leverage perks to pursue other little luxuries without having to lay out cash for them.

In fact, they’re fond of doing it for travel, with 7 percent using airline miles to upgrade to business class.

In addition, 7 percent use status from premium credit cards for hotel upgrades, and 6 percent use premium cards for lounge access.

2. They’re planning on grad school.

While that may not seem like saving—even though it’s definitely ahead of the 11 percent of male millennials who are saving for a new luxury car and the 12 percent of female millennials saving for a new wardrobe—they’re looking toward an advanced degree for a leg up the job ladder.

Oh, and 27 percent are saving for a place of their own.

1. They stay away from credit cards.

Mashable reports that, despite their spendthrift reputations, millennials are actually opting for other types of technology—digital wallets, for instance—but not so much credit cards.

It cites a BankRate finding that in fact, 67 percent of millennials don't have credit cards—the lowest amount of people without credit cards in any demographic, among adults.

And they’d rather be paid in cash, thank you very much. So say 58 percent, and they’re smart; it wards off unnecessary purchases and helps keep them out of credit card debt.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M.  (2017 June 29). 10 ways millennials are saving for the future [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/29/10-ways-millennials-are-saving-for-the-future?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


retirement money

What's Really Draining Employee 401(k) Accounts

Are your employees placing enough emphasis in their retirement? Here is a great article by Cynthia Loh from Employee Benefit Advisor on what employers can do to help their employees properly utilize their 401(k)s.

When it comes to debating the root cause of why Americans, as a whole, are short at least $6.8 trillion in retirement savings, it’s never long before someone points a finger at fees.

But while fees do their part to erode retirement nest eggs, there’s actually something far more detrimental to a comfortable retirement: the investing behavior of savers themselves. In fact, behavioral mistakes could cost savers 1.56% per year.

How does poor behavior add up to such a cost? Here are three core employee 401(k) missteps, and how plan sponsors can limit them.

1. Employees often make poor fund selections
Employees generally find it challenging to choose their own investments, and the task often ends up costing them.

For many employees, the initial obstacle of setting up a 401(k) plan stops them in their tracks. A large fund line-up can cause analysis paralysis, and actually reduce participation rates. One study found that for every additional 10 funds added to a set of plan options, participation drops by about 2%.

For those employees who do participate, they are left to fend for themselves with complex fund lineups. Ideally, they would establish an asset allocation with a correct level of risk and an optimal diversification for that risk tolerance. Unfortunately, a 2015 study by Financial Engines found that 61% of unadvised plan participants had inappropriate risk levels.

Finally, it’s not uncommon for employees to attempt investment selection without fully understanding proper diversification. Instead of balancing risk, participants might divide their money evenly between the options on an investment menu. For example, if six out of 10 options are stock funds, they are likely to end up at roughly 60% stocks. If 18 out of 20 options are stock funds, they will end up with 90% stocks.

So, what should you, the plan sponsor, do when your employees face a 401(k) situation that seems to inhibit participation, leads to unnecessary risk, and fails to encourage proper diversification?

Solution: Consider offering managed 401(k) accounts as a Qualified Default Investment Alternative
If employees find it challenging to make fund selections confidently, why not build in default investment advice to your plan? A Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA) provides a standard, default offer of a portfolio customized to each employee. By constructing a diversified, optimized portfolio for each employee as a standard service, your 401(k) plan can help employees avoid uninformed decisions about their investments. The fund selection process will be more straightforward for new employees. As such, they may be less likely to opt for unduly high risk levels, and, by default, their investments will then be properly diversified.

In other words, rather than providing employees with a list of ingredients, provide them with a prepared meal customized to their palate and set up to satisfy their financial health.

2. 401(k) participants often “set it and forget it”
For those participants that successfully navigate participation, asset allocation, and fund selection, the ongoing maintenance of a 401(k) still presents challenges. Many plan participants choose their deferral rates and funds on the first day of work and might not change anything for the entire time they’re at that employer — or even after they leave. Meanwhile, they’re missing out on the benefits that could be had by rebalancing or switching investments based on macro trends, such as an ETF price decrease.

Plan sponsors should consider all the options available to them for helping employees understand the right asset allocation, appropriate fund allocations, ongoing portfolio maintenance — and the path forward to a secure, stable retirement.

Solution: Enable automation to help your employees maintain their 401(k)
401(k) maintenance is essential, but it shouldn’t fall on individual employees to disrupt their daily lives to keep things up-to-date. Technology can make the task of maintaining 401(k) investments far easier for employees.

If employees don’t want to actively revisit their deferral rates and asset allocations on an annual basis, automation can handle the process of portfolio rebalancing and tax optimization for the participant. While target-date funds (TDFs) have offered limited automatic adjustment for years, today, 401(k) plans built with automated advice tend to offer more personalized optimization for employees. For instance, TDFs usually rely on a generic set of assumptions about their investors to determine how they rebalance and adjust risk over time. Automated 401(k) plans can offer personalized rebalancing, tax optimization, and asset reallocation, solving for an individual’s specific characteristics and goals.

3. Poor investing behavior is a workplace issue
Employees talk to each other about their benefits, worry together from time to time, and often ask one another for advice. In short, water-cooler talk plays a role in how participants behave with regards to their 401(k).

In any given office, there’s at least one employee — we’ll call him Gary — who fancies himself a stock trading guru. Gary checks the morning headlines and stock tickers. He’s always offering unsolicited financial advice to his fellow colleagues. And he spends a lot of time at the water cooler.

For novice employees, having somebody like Gary in the office can either inspire them to gain financial literacy or drastically sway their investing behavior. As the plan’s fiduciary, the 401(k) plan sponsor should make sure the right financial advice reaches all employees, so that water-cooler talk from people like Gary doesn’t play too large a role in employees’ investing behavior.

Solution: Offer personalized financial advice in your 401(k) plan
A responsible way to give employees the information they need to make good decisions is to offer personalized financial advice with your 401(k) plan. Advice from a fiduciary adviser helps participants make decisions for their own individual situation, removing the confusion of what they hear at work, see on television, or learn from their peers.

That advice becomes more valuable when it takes into account personal goals such as buying a home and covers all assets, including 401(k) assets. Some 401(k) platforms have educational features built in that can anticipate when a participant has a question or appears confused and serves up tailored information that can help employees make a sound decision. Others make use of customer service centers that make it easy for employees to ask questions to experts when they need to, rather than front-loading them with information during an orientation.

Save your employees the cost of poor investing behavior
When it comes down to it, plan sponsors often underestimate just how confusing 401(k) plans can be for employees. Most employees know that saving for retirement is important, but few actually understand all they should do to maximize the benefit of their 401(k) contributions.

Help your employees save money by selecting a 401(k) solution that helps to minimize behavioral mistakes. Poor fund selection, lack of account maintenance, and bad advice shouldn’t detract from employees’ results. With elegant solutions like a managed account QDIA, investment automation, and expert advice, you can save your employees time, money and anxiety.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Loh C. (2017 June 13). What's really draining employee 401(k) accounts [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/whats-really-draining-employee-401-k-accounts


401(k) Borrowing Isn’t Free

Have your employees been dipping into their 401(k)s to support their financial needs? Then take a look at this article by David Sherman from Employee Benefit Adviser on why employees shouldn't dip into their 401(k)s and what employers can do to help employees support themselves financially without having to use the money saved in their 401(k)s.

When dire financial need strikes, employees often tap their retirement accounts. While there are cases in which a 401(k) withdrawal makes sense, these loans should be viewed as an absolute last resort.

There are significant downsides related to 401(k) loans such as including penalties, administration and maintenance fees as well as “leakage” from retirement accounts. This occurs when an employee takes a loan on their 401(k), cashes out entirely or leaves their job and rolls over their account to their new employer.

Borrowing from retirement plans presents hazards to the employer, as well. More employers are minimizing the ability of employees to dip into their 401(k) savings by limiting the number of loans from 66% in 2012 to 45% in 2016, according to SHRM. Despite this, the bottom line is that employees need access to low cost credit.

More than 1-in-4 participants use their 401(k) savings for non-retirement needs, according to financial education provider HelloWallet. That amounts to a startling $70 billion of retirement savings that employees are siphoning away from their future.

There are hidden costs to 401(k) loans. One of the perceived benefits of a 401(k) loan is that the borrower isn’t charged any interest. That’s a fallacy: 401(k) loans typically include interest rates that are 1 to 2 points higher than the current Prime Rate plus administrative fees. While the borrower pays this money to him or herself rather than to a bank, these “repayments” don’t take into account penalty of taking money out of a 401(k) for months or years when it might have enjoyed market gains.

The downside of the interest rate is that it makes paying back the loan more difficult and this will likely lead to 401(k) leakage. In some cases, loopholes that allow employees to raid their 401(k)s before retirement reduce the aggregate wealth in those accounts by 25%. Simply put, this translates into having the most senior and highest paid employees stay on the job because they do not have enough funds in their account to retire. From an HR administrator’s standpoint, that can increase overall costs, since employees who cannot afford to retire are drawing higher-than-average salaries. And thanks to their advanced age, they also run-up costs on the employer’s medical plan.

The financial wellness alternative

Employers should offer socially responsible alternatives to borrowing from their 401k. Not only to ensure that older workers can afford to retire and make room for younger, less-expensive hires, but to ease the financial burden for employees when emergencies do happen. This should be offered as a voluntary benefit with no risk to employers. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Rising Retirement Perils of 401(k) ‘Leakage’” Redner’s Markets made that leap offering a low-cost Kashable loan to its employees. It stopped leakage and offered employees of the online grocer much needed relief from financial stress.

Adding a financial wellness solution to the employee voluntary benefits package that provides access to responsible credit is a first step in untangling employees’ financials. For employees struggling with college loans and credit card debt, this financial-wellness benefit allows them to borrow when needed at a low rate. For the 35% of employees surveyed by PWC in 2016 that said they had trouble meeting their monthly household expenses and the 29% that said they had trouble meeting their minimum credit card charges each month, this voluntary program provides multiple benefits. For the employee, it is an opportunity to build or improve their credit score, and provide relief from financial stress. To the employer, it’s a risk-free solution to stop the leakage from retirement accounts.

 

See the original article Here.

Source:

Sherman D. (2017 June 5). 401(k) borrowing isn't free [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/401-k-borrowing-isnt-free?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000


Rising Health Care Costs Threatening Employees’ Financial Goals

Did you know that the rising costs of healthcare could be having a negative effect on your employees' financial goals? Check out this great read by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on how your employees' finances are being impacted by the costs of healthcare.

Employees are under financial stress — big time. In fact, 56 percent of them are stressed about their financial situation, and more than half of them say it’s taking a toll on both their ability to focus and their productivity on the job.

That’s according to the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report, which finds that not only are 53 percent of stressed employees having trouble concentrating on their work, the cost of health care is a big shadow cast over workers’ financial situations. And that’s already an issue, with 43 percent of employees owning up to spending 3 or more hours a week while at the office dealing with personal financial matters.

As more employees find themselves shelling out more from their own pockets to pay health care bills — 69 percent of workers said so in 2015, but 79 percent said so in 2016 — it’s no surprise to hear that health care costs are up 10 percent since 2015. No wonder they’re stressed; salaries certainly haven’t risen to match.

Those rising health care costs are taking a bite out of most employees’ other financial goals — among workers who have experienced increasing health care costs, 56 percent are having to save less toward other objectives.

Women in particular are abandoning more discretionary spending and debt management to cover health care costs than men, with 72 percent chucking spending on recreation or entertainment, compared with 59 percent of men; 63 percent saving less for retirement, compared with 62 percent of men; and 50 percent paying down less debt, compared with 46 percent of men.

And the more expensive health care becomes, the more employees appear to appreciate employer-provided health coverage — with workers ranking health benefits as their top employer benefit (40 percent), followed by their 401(k) plan (31 percent).

Even among employees who class themselves as optimists about their financial futures, worries about health care and its cost are weighing them down. And as might be expected, money woes weigh more on women than men, even — or perhaps especially — when it comes to health care. While 52 percent of men say that becoming seriously ill and unable to work is a major concern (even larger for men than having to work longer than they planned), 58 percent of women fear illness and subsequent absence from the workplace.

And more than half of employees say that financial stress is negatively affecting their physical health. Different generations feel the effects more, with 51 percent of boomers, 56 percent of Gen Xers and 68 percent of millennials saying money worries are literally making them sick. Employers need to be aware of this and take steps to deal with it, particularly since it translates into a toll not just on workers but on the employer’s bottom line — via higher absenteeism rates and higher health care costs.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 June 1). Rising health care costs threatening employees' financial goals [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/01/rising-health-care-costs-threatening-employees-fin


Starting Early is Key to Helping Younger Workers Achieve Financial Success

Starting early is the best way to ensure dreams for life after work are realized, but when TIAA analyzed how Gen Y is saving for retirement, it found 32 percent are not saving any of their annual income for the future.

Knowing the importance of working with young people early in their careers to educate them about the merits of saving for a secure financial future, here are some approaches tailored to Gen Y participants:

  • Encourage enrollment, matching and regular small increases – Enrolling in an employer-sponsored retirement plan is a critical first step for Gen Y participants. Contributing even just a small amount can make a big difference, especially since younger workers benefit most from the power of compounding, which allows earnings on savings to be reinvested and generate their own earnings.

    Encouraging enrollment also helps younger workers get into the habit of saving consistently, and benefit from any matching funds. Emphasize the benefits of employer matching contributions as they help increase the amount being saved now, which could make a big impact down the line. Lastly, encourage regular increases in saving, which can be fairly painless if timed to an annual raise or bonus.

  • Help younger workers understand how much is enough – We believe the primary objective of a retirement plan is offering a secure and steady stream of income, so it’s important to help this generation create a plan for the retirement they imagine. Two key elements are as follows:
    • Are they saving enough? TIAA’s 2016 Lifetime Income Survey revealed 41 percent of people who are not yet retired are saving 10 percent or less of their income, even though experts recommend people save between 10 to 15 percent.
    • Will they be able to cover their expenses for as long as they live? Young professionals should consider the lifetime income options available in their retirement plan, including annuities, which can provide them with an income floor to cover their essential expenses throughout their lives.

      Despite the important role these vehicles can play in a retirement savings strategy, 20 percent of Gen Y respondents are unfamiliar with annuities and their benefits.

  • Provide access to financial advice – Providing access to financial advice can help younger plan participants establish their retirement goals and identify the right investments. By setting retirement goals early, and learning about the appropriate investments, Gen Y participants can position themselves for success later on.

    The good news is TIAA survey data revealed Gen Y sees the value financial advice can provide, with 80 percent believing in the importance of receiving financial advice before the age of 35.

  • Understand the needs of a tech-savvy and digitally connected generation – It’s important to meet this generation where they are—on the phone, in person or online. We’ve learned that this generation expects easy digital access to their financial picture, and we offer smartphone, tablet and smartwatch apps in response.
    • Engage Gen Y with digital tools - Choose ones that educate in a style that does not preach and allows them to take action. One way to reach Gen Y on topics such as retirement, investing and savings is through gaming.

      We’ve found that the highest repeat users of our Financial IQ game are ages 24-34, and that Gen Y is significantly more engaged with the competition, with 50 percent more clicks.

Perhaps more than any other generation, Gen Y needs to understand the importance of saving for their goals for the future even if it’s several decades away.  Employers play an integral role in kick-starting that process: first, by offering a well-designed retirement plan that empowers young people to take action; and second, by providing them with access to financial education and advice that encourages them to think thoughtfully about their financial goals—up to and through retirement.

See the original article Here.

Source:

McCabe C. (2017 April 14). Starting early is key to helping younger workers achieve financial success[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/04/14/starting-early-is-key-to-helping-younger-workers-g?ref=hp-in-depth&page_all=1