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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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
Are you struggling to save for your retirement? Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Adviser on what employee benefits advisers are doing to help their clients prepare for their retirement by Cort Olsen.
In a recent forum co-hosted by Retirement Clearinghouse, EBRI, Wiser and the Financial Services Roundtable, experts shared how automated retirement portability programs could be the key to increased participation in private-sector retirement plans.
Today, at least 64% of Americans say they do not have sufficient funds for retirement and less than half of private-sector workers participate in workplace retirement programs. Former U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, says these statistics could improve through better access to workplace retirement savings plans.
“So many small businesses tell [Congress], ‘Look we’d like to offer a plan, but we just can’t afford it,’” Conrad says. “We take the liability off of their shoulders, we take the administrative difficulty off their shoulders and allow a third party to administer the plans, run the plans and have the financial responsibility for the plans, which makes a big difference for employers.”
With these improved access points to savings plans, Conrad says the opportunity arises to create new retirement security plans for smaller businesses with fewer than 500 employees, enabling multiple employers — even from different industries — to band together to offer their workers low cost, well-designed options.
“Once the [savings plan] has been put in place for a period of time, we then introduce a nationwide minimum coverage standard for businesses with more than 50 employees,” Conrad says. “Any mandate is controversial, but legally if you dramatically simplify (don’t require employer match) really all they have to do is payroll deduction, and then it becomes not unreasonable for employers with 50 or more workers to offer some kind of plan.”
How to achieve auto-portability
Once plans have been made available for employers of all sizes, Jack VanDerhei, research director for the Employee Benefit Research Institute, recommends three different scenarios for auto-portability of retirement plans between employers.
1) Full auto-portability. VanDerhei considers this to be the most efficient scenario, where every participant consolidates their savings in their new employer plan every time they change jobs. The goal would be that all participants arrive at age 65 with only one account accumulated over the span of their working life.
2) Partial auto-portability. In this scenario, every participant with less than $5,000 — indexed for inflation — consolidates their savings in their new employer plan every time they change jobs. “If you have $5,000 or less in your account balance at the time you change jobs, leakage would only come from hardship withdrawals,” VanDerhei says. This means that money would only leave the account if the participant determined it necessary to take money out to pay for a necessity.
3) Baseline: status quo. In addition to hardship withdrawals, there is a participant-specific probability of cashing out and loan default leakage at the time of job transition. These participant specific leakages can be age, income, account balance and how long the participant has been with the employer.
VanDerhei says the younger the participants are to begin using full auto-portability of retirement plans, the more likely they are to get the most out of their retirement savings once they reach the age of 65.
“If you look at people who are currently between the ages of 25 and 34, under a partial portability there is a chance for accumulation to reach $659 billion and under a full portability there is a chance to reach $847 billion in accumulation,” VanDerhei says. “As you would expect, accumulation will decrease as the age increases if they choose to enter into auto-portability later in life.”
Spencer Williams, president and CEO of Retirement Clearinghouse, LLC, says although retirement portability has been codified into ERISA there are not enough mechanisms involved to encourage participants to continue to save for retirement rather than cashing out.
“We have a little more than a third of the population cashing out when they change jobs,” Williams says. “The research shows that if you fix that problem, the difficulty moving peoples’ money, we will begin the process of reducing leakage.”
Once a retirement account reaches a certain amount, Williams adds that participants will begin to take the account more seriously and have more desire to continue investing in the plan.
“We need to create an efficient and effective means by which people can have their money moved for them, and in doing that we begin to change peoples’ behavior,” Williams says. “Finally, if we increase access and coverage, along with auto-portability, all of those benefits accrue from all those new participants in the system.”
Olsen C. (2017 April 6). Advisers seek innovative ways to increase retirement savings [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/advisers-seek-innovative-ways-to-increase-retirement-savings
“People don’t plan to fail they fail to plan. Retirement is about what you want out of life, what do you need to do to sustain the lifestyle you have become accustomed too? Unfortunately, most people in America never really retire because they have not planned properly. Retirement is a process that begins in your 20s, 30s, 40s.” – Garry Rutledge, Saxon Partner.
The biggest hurdle of retirement is getting something started. Getting a start on retirement early in life will provide a massive amount of appreciation over time. Even if only a small amount is put away early in life, compound interest will do much of the work. Here are some other ways to begin building your retirement funds.
In your 20s, time is your biggest ally when it comes to saving for retirement. Many people in their twenties are just getting out of school and excited to live life rather than thinking about putting something away for retirement that seems so far down the road.
Investigate any company options
Consider employer sponsored plans available- 401k, 457, 403(b) – different sectors of the economy have different company sponsored retirement plans.
Know where you are headed.
Save outside of work
It is about late 30s when people begin to realize retirement is not that far away. This is the time in life that people are thinking about beginning families and having kids, it is also the point in life that you can start understanding what realistic retirement goals look like. “In my 28 years of experience,” Garry explained, “most people don’t start planning for retirement until their late 30s.” Whether you’re already saving or just starting now, carrying good habits throughout your 30s can pay off in the future.
Company sponsored plans are key
Keep it balanced
College is important, but retirement comes first
The biggest thing at this point in life is “Do you know what your plan is and are you on track?” If you build a house, you start with a plan. Same is true for retirement.
This is the time to be deciding if you are on track for retirement. Do you have a plan and a budget? Have you created a financial plan? Do you know how you want to retire? Your perspective of what retirement looks like is truly your reality.
The closer you get to 65, the retirement age, more alarms that are beginning to go off. If you haven’t done anything at this point you must take a serious look at what your plans are
Slow and Steady
If you have not begun planning…
Know your alternatives
• A thing to consider that most people don’t plan for is long term care. This is a good option to explore because it is still cheap enough in your 50s to afford.
• Consider how social security will play into your financial plan. Make sure you maximize your social security benefit.
• Have you changed your investment risk to meet your risk tolerance? As you get older your investments cannot generally tolerate the same amount of risk. The sequence of returns in retirement can devastate your retirement plan.
Seek professional help and guidance
“The advisors at Saxon can help you create a plan for the future and offer suggestions on how to invest money,” explained Garry. “Asking for help is one of the best things you can do – people are busy – and developing a plan and having a ‘coach’ to make sure you stick to the plan when things seem bleak will reward you over time”.
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Do you know everything you need to know about your 401(k)? Check out this great article from Employee Benefit News about the top 10 misconceptions people have about their 401(k)s by Robert C. Lawton.
Unfortunately for plan sponsors, 401(k) plan participants have some big misconceptions about their retirement plan.
Having worked as a 401(k) plan consultant for more than 30 years with some of the most prestigious companies in the world — including Apple, AT&T, IBM, John Deere, Northern Trust, Northwestern Mutual — I’m always surprised by the simple but significant 401(k) plan misconceptions many plan participants have. Following are the most common and noteworthy —all of which employers need to help employees address.
1. I only need to contribute up to the maximum company match
Many participants believe that their company is sending them a message on how much they should contribute. As a result, they only contribute up to the maximum matched contribution percentage. In most plans, that works out to be only 6% in employee contributions. Many studies have indicated that participants need to average at least 15% in contributions each year. To dispel this misperception, and motivate participants to contribute something closer to what they should, plan sponsors should consider stretching their matching contribution.
2. It’s OK to take a participant loan
I have had many participants tell me, “If this were a bad thing why would the company let me do it?” Account leakage via defaulted loans is one of the reasons why some participants never save enough for retirement. In addition, taking a participant loan is a horribleinvestment strategy. Plan participants should first explore taking a home equity loan, where the interest is tax deductible. Plan sponsors should consider curtailing or eliminating their loan provisions.
3. Rolling a 401(k) account into an IRA is a good idea
There are many investment advisers working hard to convince participants this is a good thing to do. However, higher fees, lack of free investment advice, use of higher-cost investment options, lack of availability of stable value and guaranteed fund investment options and many other factors make this a bad idea for most participants.
4. My 401(k) account is a good way to save for college, a first home, etc.
When 401(k) plans were first rolled out to employees decades ago, human resources staff helped persuade skeptical employees to contribute by saying the plans could be used for saving for many different things. They shouldn’t be. It is a bad idea to use a 401(k) plan to save for an initial down payment on a home or to finance a home. Similarly, a 401(k) plan is not the best place to save for a child’s education — 529 plans work much better. Try to eliminate the language in your communication materials that promotes your 401(k) plan as a place to do anything other than save for retirement.
5. I should stop making 401(k) contributions when the stock market crashes
This is a more prevalent feeling among plan participants than you might think. I have had many participants say to me, “Bob, why should I invest my money in the stock market when it is going down. I’m just going to lose money!” These are the same individuals who will be rushing into the stock market at market tops. This logic is important to unravel with participants and something plan sponsors should emphasize in their employee education sessions.
6. Actively trading my 401(k) account will help me maximize my account balance
Trying to time the market, or following newsletters or a trader’s advice, is rarely a winning strategy. Consistently adhering to an asset allocation strategy that is appropriate to a participant’s age and ability to bear risk is the best approach for most plan participants.
7. Indexing is always superior to active management
Although index investing ensures a low-cost portfolio, it doesn’t guarantee superior performance or proper diversification. Access to commodity, real estate and international funds is often sacrificed by many pure indexing strategies. A blend of active and passive investments often proves to be the best investment strategy for plan participants.
8. Target date funds are not good investments
Most experts who say that target date funds are not good investments are not comparing them to a participant’s allocations prior to investing in target date funds. Target date funds offer proper age-based diversification. Many participants, before investing in target date funds, may have invested in only one fund or a few funds that were inappropriate risk-wise for their age.
9. Money market funds are good investments
These funds have been guaranteed money losers for a number of years because they have not kept pace with inflation. Unless a participant is five years or less away from retirement or has difficulty taking on even a small amount of risk, these funds are below-average investments. As a result of the new money market fund rules, plan sponsors should offer guaranteed or stable value investment options instead.
10. I can contribute less because I will make my investments will work harder
Many participants have said to me, “Bob, I don’t have to contribute as much as others because I am going to make my investments do more of the work.” Most participants feel that the majority of their final account balance will come from earnings in their 401(k) account. However, studies have shown that the major determinant of how much participants end up with at retirement is the amount of contributions they make, not the amount of earnings. This is another misconception that plan sponsors should work hard to unwind in their employee education sessions.
Make sure you address all of these misconceptions in your next employee education sessions.
Lawton R. (2017 April 4). The 10 biggest 401(k) plan misconceptions[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/the-10-biggest-401-k-plan-misperceptions?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001
Do you need help boosting your savings for your retirement? Check out these great tips from Benefits Pro on how to increasing your retirement savings by Marlene Y. Satter
Americans are struggling to save enough money for retirement.
Now that pensions are going the way of the dodo and workers are relying primarily on Social Security and 401(k) plans—the latter if they’re lucky—it’s a struggle to find extra money to set aside against the day they leave the workplace.
In fact, many workers never plan to retire.
Considering how many workers don’t even have access to a retirement plan at work, trying to stretch dollars even a little bit further to set aside money for retirement can be a real challenge.
That’s pretty clear from the zero-to-minimum savings held by many Americans.
In fact, with 40 million working-age households lacking any retirement savings at all, and the average balance of retirement accounts a pitiful $2,500 across all households, it’s obvious that something needs to be done. But how much can people do on low incomes, fighting against the gender wage gap and shrinking benefits packages?
Perhaps it’s only baby steps they can take, but even those baby steps can pay off over the span of a career. So here are some suggestions that workers could definitely benefit from on how they might be able to squeeze just a little more out of that paycheck.
Depending on a worker’s age, some of these strategies will be more helpful for some than for others—but all can make a difference in the end result: stashing away enough money to pay for retirement.
Courtesy of a range of sources, including Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Forbes, Fidelity and others, here are 10 strategies to help workers boost their retirement savings.
If you’re lucky enough to work at a company that provides a 401(k) plan, Schwab suggests that you make sure your contribution level is high enough to take full advantage of the employer matching contribution.
Not saving enough to get the full employer match is leaving free money on the table. Look for economies elsewhere (fewer trips to the barista, brown-bag lunches) to increase your contribution till you get the full benefit of whatever your employer is willing to give.
Some people up their retirement contributions every time they get a raise; others do it when they hit some other significant milestone, such as an anniversary with the company.
Schwab, again, suggests that whether it’s a performance review, a birthday or some other occasion, you keep raising your retirement contribution even if it’s only by one percent at a time. It will all add up by the time you’re ready to retire.
While you’re busy increasing those contributions, automate them.
Set up an automatic increase that will add to your savings at regular intervals, even if you forget.
That way, whether you’re the type that actually remembers those special occasions on which you plan to boost contributions or you forget them, you can set it and forget it—and your retirement plan will do the rest.
If you’re 50 years old or older, remember that you’re allowed to put an extra $6,000 into your retirement account to catch up to where you ought to be.
That can help a lot as you approach retirement, particularly if you haven’t saved the maximum allowable in years past.
This one doesn’t actually require you to find additional money to save. What it does require is that you review the investments in your retirement accounts and see how much the fees add up to.
If there are cheaper investments available in your plan—exchange-traded funds, for example, or target-date funds that offer lower fees—make sure they’re suitable for your particular needs and risk tolerance and then, if they’re appropriate, make the switch. Cutting down on the fees you pay will keep your balance growing.
Particularly if you haven’t saved all that much for retirement and the Big Day is drawing near, see if you can adjust to a budget that reflects lower spending levels—something you might have to do in retirement anyway, if money is tight.
Whether or not you can sustain living on that budget, while you’re experimenting, take any money that you save from your usual outlay and put it into your retirement account. Better yet, open a Roth if you’re eligible. You’ll have already paid taxes on the money, if it’s coming out of your regular pay, and when you take it out of a Roth however much it’s grown to will be tax free. That will save you money both now and then.
If your benefits plan at work includes an HSA, check it out as a potential investment vehicle. While most people just put money in it to pay approved medical expenses, many don’t know that they can actually invest the money in an HSA and just let it grow; it’s not a use-it-or-lose-it account.
If it grows into retirement, you can then use the money to pay approved medical expenses tax free, which will stretch your other retirement savings further. (You can also use it for nonapproved expenses, but you’ll have to pay tax on the money upon withdrawal if you do that.)
Don’t just stick your money into a savings account and wait for retirement. Check out the potential of and differences among different types of accounts—savings, HSAs, Roths, traditional IRAs, 401(k)s—and put your money where you’ll get the most bang for the buck.
Contribute the maximum to your 401(k) to get full matching funds at work, and then look into opening a traditional or a Roth IRA. As previously mentioned, if you’ve already paid taxes on money contributed to a Roth, when you withdraw it in retirement it will be tax free (so it will go further).
Your income and income tax filing status determine whether you’re eligible for this one, aimed at low- to moderate-income households, but it’s a goodie—and if you’re married and filing jointly, both of you might be able to claim it.
The program, the official name of which is the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, can give you $1,000 for contributing to a qualifying retirement account. Whether your retirement plan is an IRA, a 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or even a SEP or SIMPLE IRA, you contribute the allowable amount, assuming your income level makes you eligible, and the government credits you 10 percent, 20 percent, or 50 percent of the first $2,000 you contribute to retirement savings for the year.
Yes, by following the instructions in earlier steps and boosting your retirement contribution at work, you could lower your tax bracket—and that could have you losing less of your take-home pay to increase that contribution than you thought.
Depending on your withholding rate, an increased retirement contribution might hurt less than you think—and that can encourage you to do even more. You can check with human resources or the payroll department to find out just how much the hit will save you. And who knows? It might lower your adjusted gross income enough to let you qualify for the Saver’s Credit—a real win-win situation.
Satter M. (2017 March 07). 10 tips to boost retirement savings [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/07/10-tips-to-boost-retirement-savings?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1
Did you know only about a third of Americans are putting money away into their retirement accounts? Check out this interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisors about some of the statics of Americans 401(k) savings by Ben Steverman.
(Bloomberg) – Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.
True, this has been a refrain for longer than many can remember. But now some disturbing numbers show exactly how bad it’s gotten. Two-thirds of all Americans don’t contribute anything to a 401(k) or other retirement account available through their employer.
Millions aren’t saving on the job because they either don’t have access to a workplace retirement plan or they do but aren’t putting money in it. Many just can’t spare the cash, but a new analysis shows there are other reasons, too.
Until now, the exact size of the problem has been unclear. Surveys can be unreliable: Small businesses are difficult to assess, and many workers just don’t know what plan options they have, especially if employers aren’t making much effort to sign them up. Information on a 401(k) may be part of a stack of paper handed out on their first day, that they don’t read or understand, and ultimately set aside and never think about again.
Now, U.S. Census Bureau researchers have come up with estimates that rely on tax data, which should be more reliable than surveys. Their conclusion: Only about a third of workers are saving in a 401(k) or similar tax-deferred retirement plan. Also, the gap is far wider than expected between the number of employers offering retirement plans, and the number of workers saving in them.
Only 14% of employers offer plans
Census researchers Michael Gideon and Joshua Mitchell analyzed W-2 tax records from 2012 to identify 6.2 million unique employers and 155 million individual workers, who held 219 million distinct jobs. This data produced estimates starkly different from previous surveys.
For example, previous estimates suggested more than 40% of private-sector employers sponsored a retirement plan. Tax records uncovered a much bigger pool of small businesses, showing that, overall, just 14% of all employers offer a 401(k) or other defined contribution plan to their workers.
Bigger companies are the likeliest to offer 401(k) plans, and since they employ more people than small firms, skew the overall number of U.S. workers who have the option. Gideon and Mitchell estimate 79% of Americans work at places that sponsor a 401(k)-style plan. The good news is that’s more than 20 points higher than previous estimates. The bad news is that just 41% of workers at those employers are making contributions to such a plan—more than 20 points lower than previous estimates.
The combined result of those two numbers is that just 32% of American workers are saving anything in a workplace retirement account. Four out of five workers are employed by companies that offer a 401(k) or similar plan, but most workers aren’t using them—either because they’re not eligible or because they aren’t signing up.
Lawmakers have proposed a variety of ways to get more people to save. Several states are experimenting with strategies to get every worker signed up for a retirement account. But they face serious pushback from the Republican-controlled Congress and the financial industry.
The demise of the pension
Census researchers are still studying the tax data, cross-referencing it with other databases to get a fuller picture of how Americans are saving. For example, researchers are using retirement plan filing documents to get a better sense of how many workers are still covered by traditional pensions, also known as defined benefit plans. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of survey data released Feb. 15, only 10% of workers over age 22 have a traditional pension. Just 6% of millennials have a pension while 13% of baby boomers do.
Not surprisingly, the Census data suggest well-paid workers find it easier to save than the lowest-paid. But income isn’t the only factor. Eligibility is also a major issue for part-time workers and people who change jobs frequently. Companies often require employees to work for a certain amount of time before they can sign up for a 401(k), and employers aren’t required to allow part-time workers into a plan until they’ve worked 1,000 hours during the previous year.
Another problem made clear by the new report is that many workers simply don’t know their company 401(k) exists. Workers also might never get around to filling out the paperwork, or could be intimidated and confused by the need to make investment decisions. Companies can help solve all those problem by automatically signing up eligible workers, and requiring them to opt out if they don’t want to participate. Doing so has been proven to boost enrollment, but momentum has now stalled for automatic 401(k) features.
House moves to block auto-enrollment
California, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, and Connecticut have started programs designed to encourage workers to save. Employers in those states would be required to either offer a retirement plan, or automatically enroll their workers in a state-sponsored individual retirement account. The states had the blessing of the Obama administration, which issued rules allowing states and even large cities to create portable retirement accounts if they want.
On Feb. 15, however, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to rescind those rules. Echoing the arguments of the financial industry, Republicans argued state auto-enrollment plans constitute unfair competition to the financial industry. If the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate and President Donald Trump also sign off, any state and city auto-IRA plans would be placed in jeopardy.
Whatever the outcome, any effort to get workers to save for retirement faces a daunting challenge: Can Americans spare the money? Student debt and auto loans are at record levels, according to Federal Reserve data released Feb. 16, and overall consumer debt is rising at the fastest pace in three years.
Retirement is an important goal, but many Americans seem to have more pressing financial concerns.
Steverman B. (2017 February 21). Two-thirds of americans aren’t putting money in their 401(k) [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/two-thirds-of-americans-arent-putting-money-in-their-401-k?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000
Are you worried that your company’s 401(k) plan might face a Department of Labor audit? Check out this great tips from Employee Benefits Network on how to avoid a 401 (k) aduit by Robert C. Lawton
There are many reasons for plan sponsors to do everything possible to avoid a Department of Labor 401(k) audit. They can be costly, time consuming and generally unpleasant.
The DOL, in its fact sheet for fiscal year 2016, indicates that the Employee Benefits Security Administration closed 2,002 civil investigations with 1,356 of those cases (67.7%) resulting in monetary penalties/additional contributions. The total amount EBSA recovered for Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan participants last year was $777.5 million.
In my experience, if a plan sponsor receives notification from the DOL that it has an interest in looking over their 401(k) plan, they need to be concerned. Not only do the statistics support the fact that DOL auditors do a good job of uncovering problems, but in my opinion, they are not an easy group to negotiate with to fix deficiencies.
As a result, the best policy plan sponsors should follow to ensure they don’t receive a visit from a DOL representative is to do everything possible to avoid encouraging such a visit. Here are some suggestions that may help plan sponsors avoid a DOL 401(k) audit:
1. Always respond to employee inquiries in a timely way. The most frequent trigger for a DOL 401(k) audit is a complaint received from a current or former employee. These complaints can originate from employees you have terminated who feel poorly treated or existing employees who feel ignored. Make sure you are sensitive to employee concerns and respond in a timely way to all questions. Keep copies of any correspondence. Be very professional in how you treat those individuals who are terminated — even though in certain instances that may be difficult. Terminated employees who feel they have been mistreated often call the DOL to “get back” at an employer.
2. Improve employee communication. Often employee frustrations come from not understanding a benefit program — or worse, misunderstanding it. If you are aware that employees are frustrated with your plan or there is a lot of behind the scenes discussion about it, schedule an education meeting as soon as possible to explain plan provisions.
3. Fix your plan — now. If the DOL decides to audit your 401(k) plan, as shown above, it frequently finds something wrong. Many times plan sponsors are aware that a certain provision in the plan is a friction point for employees. Or worse, they know the plan is brokenand no one has taken the time to fix it. Contact your benefits consultant, recordkeeper or benefits attorney to address these trouble spots before they cause an employee to call the DOL.
4. Conduct a “mock” DOL 401(k) audit. Many 401(k) plan sponsors have found it helpful to conduct a mock audit of their plan or hire a consulting firm to do one for them. If management hasn’t been responsive to your concerns about addressing a plan issue, having evidence to share with them that shows an audit failure can be very convincing.
5. Make sure your 5500 is filed correctly. The second most frequent cause of a DoL 401(k) audit relates to the annual Form 5500 filing. The most common 5500 errors include failing to file on time, not including all required schedules and failing to answer multiple-part questions. Ensure that your 5500 is filed by a competent provider and that it is filed on time. Most plan sponsors either use their recordkeeper or accountant to file their plan’s 5500. Don’t do it yourself. The fees a provider will charge to do the work for you are very reasonable.
6. Don’t be late with contribution submissions. Surprisingly, many employers still don’t view participant 401(k) contributions as participant money. They are, and the DOL is very interested in ensuring that participant 401(k) contributions are submitted promptly to the trustee. Be very consistent and timely with your deposits to the trust. Participants will track how long it takes for their payroll deductions to hit the trust. If they aren’t happy with how quickly that happens, they may call the DOL. If you have forgotten to submit a payroll to the trustee, or think you may have been late, call your benefits attorney. There are procedures to follow for late contribution submissions.
DOL audits are generally not pleasant. It wouldn’t be too strong to say that they are often adversarial. Because these visits are typically generated by employee complaints or Form 5500 errors, auditors have a pretty good idea that something is wrong. Consequently, I recommend that plan sponsors do everything they can to avoid a DOL 401(k) audit.
Lawton R. (2017 February 13). How to avoid a DOL 401(k) audit [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-to-avoid-a-dol-401-k-audit?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001
Do all of your employees understand how their 401(k) works? If not check out this article from HR Morning on the statistics of about 1 in 3 employees that do not understand their 401 (k) by Jared Bilski,
When it comes to common financial vehicles like 401(k) plans, term life insurance, Roth IRAs and 529 college savings plans, most workers could use some education on the finer points.
In fact, according to a recent study by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of American, one-third or less of employees said they had a solid understanding of the most common financial products.
Here is the specific breakdown from the Guardian Life study on the percentage of worker that said they have a solid understanding of various financial products:
One of the best ways to help workers garner a better understanding of their finances — and the financial products available to them — is through one-on-one education.
Consider this example:
The Principal Group compared the saving habits and financial acumen of workers who attended a one-on-one session the organization offered one year to those who didn’t.
What it found: Contribution rates for those who attended the session were 9% higher than those who didn’t. Also, 19% of the workers who received education opted to automatically bump up their retirement plan increases with pay increases, compared to just 2% of other employees.
Also, 92% of the employees who were enrolled in Principal’s education program agreed to take a number of positive financial steps, and 80% of those workers followed through on those steps.
Bilski J. (2017 January 27). Only 1 in 3 employees actually understands how their 401(k) works [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/only-1-in-3-employees-actually-understands-how-their-401k-works/
Is financial wellness an important part of your company culture? By promoting financial wellness among your employees’, employers can reap the benefits as well. Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about the some of the effects that promoting financial wellness can have. By Cort Olsen
Financial wellness has come to the forefront of employers’ wellbeing priorities. Looking back on previous years of participation in retirement savings programs such as 401(k)s, employers are not satisfied with participation, an Aon study shows.
As few as 15% of employers say they are satisfied with their workers’ current savings rate, according to a new report from Aon Hewitt. In response, employers are focused on increasing savings rates and will look to their advisers to help expand financial wellbeing programs.
Aon surveyed more than 250 U.S. employers representing nearly 9 million workers to determine their priorities and likely changes when it comes to retirement benefits. According to the report, employers plan to emphasize retirement readiness, focusing on financial wellbeing and refining automation as they aim to raise 401(k) savings rates for 2017.
Emphasizing retirement readiness
Nearly all employers, 90%, are concerned with their employees’ level of understanding about how much they need to save to achieve an adequate retirement savings. Those employers who said they were not satisfied with investment levels in past years, 87%, say they plan to take action this year to help workers reach their retirement goals.
“Employers are making retirement readiness one of the important parts of their financial wellbeing strategy by offering tools and modelers to help workers understand, realistically, how much they’re likely to need in order to retire,” says Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt. “Some of these tools take it a step further and provide education on what specific actions workers can take to help close the savings gap and can help workers understand that even small changes, such as increasing 401(k) contributions by just two percentage points, can impact their long-term savings outlook.”
Focusing on financial wellbeing
While financial wellness has been a growing trend among employers recently, 60% of employers say its importance has increased over the past two years. This year, 92% of employers are likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in a way that extends beyond retirement such as help with managing student loan debt, day-to-day budgeting and even physical and emotional wellbeing.
Currently, 58% of employers have a tool available that covers at least one aspect of financial wellness, but by the end of 2017, that percentage is expected to reach 84%, according to the Aon Hewitt report.
“Financial wellbeing programs have moved from being something that few leading-edge companies were offering to a more mainstream strategy,” Austin says. “Employers realize that offering programs that address the overall wellbeing of their workers can solve for myriad challenges that impact people’s work lives and productivity, including their physical and emotional health, financial stressors and long-term retirement savings.”
The lessons learned from automatic enrollment are being utilized to increase savings rates. In a separate Aon Hewitt report, more than half of all employees under plans with automatic enrollment default had at or above the company match threshold. Employers are also adding contribution escalation features and enrolling workers who may not have been previously enrolled in the 401(k) plan.
“Employers realize that automatic 401(k) features can be very effective when it comes to increasing participation in the plan,” Austin says. “Now they are taking an automation 2.0 approach to make it easier for workers to save more and invest better.”
Olsen C. (2017 January 16). How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-to-encourage-increased-investment-in-financial-wellbeing?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000
Interesting article from BenefitsPro about employee’s increased input into their 401(k)s by Ben Steverman
(Bloomberg) — Saving for retirement requires making sacrifices now so your future self can afford to stop working later. Someday. Maybe.
It’s not news that Americans aren’t saving enough. The typical baby boomer, whose generation is just starting to retire, has a median of $147,000 in all of his retirement accounts, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
And if you think that’s depressing, try this on: 1 in 3 private sector workers don’t even have a retirement plan through their job.
But the new year brings with it some good news: If people do have a 401(k) plan through their employer, there’s data showing them choosing to set aside more for their later years.
On average, workers in 2015 put 6.8 percent of their salaries into 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, according to a recent survey of more than 600 plans. That’s up from 6.2 percent in 2010, the Plan Sponsor Council of America found.
An increase in retirement savings of 0.6 percentage points might not sound like much, but it represents a 10 percent rise in the amount flowing into those plans over just five years, or billions of dollars. About $7 trillion is already invested in 401(k) and other defined contribution plans, according to the Investment Company Institute.
If Americans keep inching up their contribution rate, they could end up saving trillions of dollars more. Workers in these plans are even starting to meet the savings recommendations of retirement experts, who suggest setting aside 10 percent to 15 percent of your salary, including any employer contribution, over a career.
While workers are saving more, companies have held their financial contributions steady—at least over the past few years. Employers pitched in 4.7 percent of payroll in 2015, the same as in 2013 and 2014. Even so, it’s still more than a point above their contribution rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
One reason workers participating in these plans are probably saving more: They’re being signed up automatically—no extra paperwork required. Almost 58 percent of plans surveyed make their sign-up process automatic, requiring employees to take action only if they don’t want to save.
Automatic enrollment can make a big difference. In such plans, 89 percent of workers are making contributions, the survey finds, while 75 percent make 401(k) contributions under plans without auto-enrollment. Auto-enrolled employees save more, 7.2 percent of their salaries vs. 6.3 percent for those who weren’t auto-enrolled.
Companies are also automatically hiking worker contribution rates over time, a feature called “auto-escalation” that’s still far less common than auto-enrollment. Less than a quarter of plans auto-escalate all participants, while 16 percent boost contributions only for workers who are deemed to be not saving enough.
A key appeal of automatic 401(k) plans is that they don’t require participating workers to be investing experts. Unless employees choose otherwise, their money is automatically put in a recommended investment.
And, at more and more 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, this takes the form of a target-date fund, a diversified mix of investments chosen based on a participant’s age or years until retirement. Two-thirds of plans offer target-date funds, the survey found, double the number in 2006.
The share of workers’ assets in target-date funds is up fivefold as a result.
A final piece of good news for workers is that they’re keeping more of every dollar they earn in a 401(k) account. Fees on 401(k) plans are falling, according to a recent analysis released by BrightScope and the Investment Company Institute.
The total cost of running a 401(k) plan is down 17 percent since 2009, to 0.39 percent of plan assets in 2014. The cost of the mutual funds inside 401(k)s has dropped even faster, by 28 percent to an annual expense ratio of 0.53 percent in 2015.
Steverman B. (2017 January 5). Employees putting billions more than usual in their 401(k)s [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/05/employees-putting-billions-more-than-usual-in-thei?ref=hp-news&page_all=1