Views: Mitigating COVID-19’s catastrophic impact on retirement readiness

As the coronavirus has placed many financial worries onto families, it has also placed a sense of worries for those that are planning for their retirement. Read this blog post to learn more.


It’s bad enough that more than 50 million Americans have filed claims for unemployment benefits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. But in addition to the disruption, financial hardship, and uncertainty that unemployed Americans (and their families) are experiencing right now, this crisis also threatens their financial security during retirement.

As I have written many times before in this column, defined contribution plan participants will seriously diminish their retirement savings if they prematurely cash out all or part of their 401(k) savings account balances. According to our research, a hypothetical 30-year-old who cashes out a 401(k) account with $5,000 today would forfeit up to $52,000 in earnings they would have accrued by age 65, if we assume the account would have grown by 7% per year. In addition, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) estimates that the average American worker will change employers 9.9 times over a 45-year period. With at least 33% and as many as 47% of plan participants cashing out their retirement savings following a job change, according to the Savings Preservation Working Group, that means workers switching jobs could cash out as many as four times over a working career, devastating their ability to fund a secure retirement.

Even before COVID-19 and “social distancing” became part of the national lexicon, cash-outs posed a huge problemto Americans’ retirement prospects. At the beginning of this year, EBRI estimated that the U.S. retirement system loses $92 billion in savings annually due to 401(k) cash-outs by plan participants after they change jobs.

These alarming trends were uncovered long prior to the pandemic and lockdown. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, theCoronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus has temporarily eased limits, penalties, and taxes on early withdrawals from retirement savings accounts made by December 31, 2020. While the CARES Act measures are clearly well-intentioned, participants who take advantage of these provisions risk creating a long-term problem while resolving short-term liquidity needs.

Heightening the temptation to make 401(k) withdrawals is the recent expiration of another CARES Act provision—the extra $600 weekly payments to Americans who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These additional federal unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, and as of this writing no deal to extend them has been reached in Congress. For Americans who had been relying on this benefit, or continue to experience financial hardship and stress about paying expenses, it is understandable that 401(k) savings could look like an attractive source of emergency liquidity.

However, given the long-term damage that cash-outs inflict on retirement outcomes, plan sponsors and recordkeepers should take this opportunity, as fiduciaries, to educate their current and terminated participants about the importance of tapping into their 401(k) savings only as an absolute last resort.

Institutionalizing portability can help

The lack of a seamless process for transporting 401(k) assets from job to job causes many participants to view cashing out as the most convenient option. And without an easy way to locate the mailing addresses of lost and missing terminated participants, sponsors and recordkeepers are unable to ensure holders of small accounts receive notifications about the status of their plan benefits.

Fortunately for participants, sponsors, and recordkeepers, technology solutions enabling the institutionalization of plan-to-plan asset portability have been live for three years. These innovations include auto portability, the routine, standardized, and automated movement of a retirement plan participant’s 401(k) savings account from their former employer’s plan to an active account in their current employer’s plan.

Auto portability is powered by “locate” technology and a “match” algorithm, which work together to find lost and missing participants, and initiate the process of moving assets into active accounts in their current-employer plans.

By adopting auto portability, sponsors and recordkeepers can not only discourage participants from cashing out, but also eliminate the need for automatic cash-outs. And these advantages come at a time when the hard-earned savings of tens of millions of Americans are at risk of being removed from the U.S. retirement system.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, EBRI estimated that if all plan participants had access to auto portability, up to $1.5 trillion in savings, measured in today’s dollars, would be preserved in our country’s retirement system over a 40-year period. Now more than ever, the institutionalization of portability by sponsors and recordkeepers is essential for helping Americans achieve financial security in retirement.

SOURCE: Williams, S. (31 August 2020) "Mitigating COVID-19’s catastrophic impact on retirement readiness" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/how-to-mitigate-covid-19s-potentially-catastrophic-impact-on-retirement-readiness


Virtual walks and free chocolate? What workplace pros say the new office will look like

Working remotely has become a new workplace normal and may continue to be so. Although it may be difficult for younger generations to acclimate to this working situation, there may be some benefits to it as well. Read this blog post to learn more.


The traditional office’s days are numbered; the office of the future will be a “collaboration center” with a mix of skeleton staff and remote workers meeting through virtual team walks and group meals via home-delivered Zoom lunches.

Millennials and Generation Z will have problems networking in the new remote work world with fewer face-to-face meetings; and mental health and well-being benefits will become more important than ever before.

Those were some of the predictions of compensation and benefits professionals at the first virtual gathering of the WorldatWork 2020 Total Resilience conference — a digital substitute for an annual conference that was supposed to be held in Minneapolis this year, but was postponed in response to the global coronavirus crisis.

"The office environment will change,” said panelist Steve Pennacchio, senior vice president of total rewards at Pfizer, during an online session on resilience on Wednesday. “Remote work is here to stay.”

Pennacchio said a number of companies will shut down their office space, which will have serious ramifications for commercial real estate and new entrants into the workforce, who will be at a particular disadvantage because of the limits of networking and source building through remote technology.

He suggested more virtual engagement tactics, including virtual walks or group activities, including having teams eat together with coordinated deliveries of lunches or chocolate. “Nothing hurts with chocolate,” he said. During the conference, which will continue with weekly panels through Sept. 2, organizers also hosted social events, including virtual trivia games and online networking.

Pfizer is investing $1 billion on development of vaccines and treatments for coronavirus, he noted. “Hopefully ours and others will work. The world needs more than one,” he said.

Likewise, Susan Brown, senior director of compensation at Siemens, said her company has focused on four key areas of building a team, culture, management team and employees who can adjust to the new environment through virtual meet-and-greet sessions and lunches where all team members must be present visually.

“The relationship builds with seeing each other,” she said. “The camera on changes the dynamic more than a phone call.”

Brown also noted tremendous innovation around talent management happening during the coronavirus crisis. She said that progressive companies have made a quick shift to focus first on the mental health and well-being of staff as a priority, rather than having an emphasis on business metrics.

“The whole conversation changed to focus on people’s health and safely, how they were feeling and empathetic messaging rather than a focus on business results,” she said.

WorldatWork CEO Scott Cawood, who served as moderator, noted that employers’ responses are being closely watched by staff, and other companies.

“COVID-19 doesn’t define who you are; it actually reveals who you are,” said Cawood, sitting alone on a stage with a white chair and house plant, as panelists called in from around the country.

Kumar Kymal, global head of compensation and benefits at BNY Mellon, said the global financial services firm has 95 percent of staff working remotely.

"Times of crisis and change give us permission to rethink the way we do things, and it's an opportunity to decide what really matters to your organization," Kymal said, noting that the company announced that there will be no layoffs in 2020 to put staff at ease.

Management response should focus on “speed, speed, speed,” he said about responding to challenges under the coronavirus crisis, with special attention to empathetic corporate messaging.

Kymal said at his company, management focused on a new framework to address healthcare concerns globally, with a broad overview of their healthcare plans. Second, management focused on addressing stress and anxiety, particularly with attention to messaging and staff feedback. They also put an increased focus on well-being and resilience strategies, and accelerated a mental health program to allow employees to assess their ability to deal with stress. Finally, BNY Mellon improved social connections for managers to lead better on connecting with various teams.

Looking ahead to the return-to-work phase of the crisis, Kymal said the stakes are high. Challenges include dealing with temperature scans, wearing masks, closed cafeterias and social distancing.

“As we're starting to plan what the return to office looks like, it's clear to us it has the potential to become an awful, awful employee experience,” he said. “We really need to rethink and redesign. What does an office experience look like? That's front and center in my mind.”

SOURCE: Siew, W. (08 July 2020) "Virtual walks and free chocolate? What workplace pros say the new office will look like" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/what-workplace-pros-say-the-new-office-will-look-like


3 tips for a successful virtual internship program

The coronavirus pandemic has created many disruptions for the workforce and many workplaces. Another disruption that has been caused has been a disruption in career development that is gained through internship programs. Read this blog post to learn more.


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all manner of talent development and acquisition activities, including internship programs.

Talent acquisition software firm Yello found in an April survey of college students that more than one-third (35%) of those who had accepted internship offers had seen their internships canceled, while 24% said their internships would be virtual. A separate April poll of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found 22% of employers revoked offers to interns but that generally, "employers are adapting their summer 2020 internship programs by moving as much programming to a virtual space as possible."

Indeed, a number of larger employers have announced in recent months an intent to move internships to virtual status, similar to other roles. Microsoft, which was set to host 4,000 interns this summer, announced its shift to a virtual program in April. Kathleen Hogan, the company's executive vice president and chief people officer, previously said that students would be encouraged to "co-create their summer experience" while the program would also help shape the company's broader virtual employee experience.

Below are three ways employers can enhance their virtual internships.

#1: Choose accessible tech tools

In the scramble to move operations remote, employers have likely settled on solutions for video chat, team communication, presentations and other organizational functions. But it's important that these tools are available and accessible to interns, Bo Goliber, Head of Philanthropy at marketing agency Fingerpaint, told HR Dive in an email.

"We have some tools that work best for smaller, internal meetings, and others that we use for our clients," said Goliber, who is the creator and manager of Fingerpaint's internship program. "Our interns have access to anything our full-time staff would be using."

Shared software can enable interns to work in company systems using their own computers. That's the approach taken by Fannie Mae this summer: The mortgage financing company's nearly 140 interns use programs like Microsoft Teams, Whiteboard and Cisco Webex, Teresa Green, vice president of talent acquisition programs, told HR Dive in an interview. To keep in touch with team members, Fannie Mae's interns also have access to Yammer, a social networking service, as well as a dedicated Microsoft Teams site.

#2: Ensure equity

Even before the pandemic, employers considered a variety of factors, including manager reviews, when assessing interns' performances. In a virtual environment, managers at Fannie Mae work with interns to develop summer work plans that outline an intern's tasks and target skills to be developed and later used as the basis for evaluations, Green said. The company is also collecting feedback from other team members on their interactions with interns.

At Fingerpaint, both managers and interns fill out evaluation forms with questions that focus on areas including communication, presentation, performance and overall skills, Goliber said. The company schedules additional check-ins with teams, managers and the internships facilitators at each of its individual offices.

"Our expectations for both interns and managers remain high, and we ensure proper training to navigate through any possible challenges that may arise from being virtual," Goliber added.

The issue of compensation has been one of concern for recent graduates as they endure the pandemic. Previous research cited in a 2019 analysis by researchers at the Stanford University Institute for Economic Policy Research showed that college graduates who started their working lives during a recession earned less for at least 10 to 15 years than those who graduated during more prosperous years. As COVID-19 impacts interns, some companies have publicly stated their intent to pay interns through the pandemic, sometimes regardless of delayed start dates.

Neither Fingerpaint nor Fannie Mae are changing the ways their interns are compensated this year, Goliber and Green said. In fact, Fannie Mae is also continuing to offer payments to interns for summer housing and commuting costs that have been offered in previous years. "We still honored that, because they made some of those investments already and we didn't want to put them at a disadvantage," Green added.

Fingerpaint has not wavered from the compensation promised to interns in the company's offer letters sent back in February, Goliber said: "Because the capabilities and expectations of our interns did not change, we believe the interns should be paid for their talent and work, no matter where they are physically performing it."

#3: Keep traditions and culture alive

Experience has been a key point of focus for HR departments as employees remain socially distanced, and Fannie Mae has extended this focus to internships by creating "business mentors," a new internal role, according to Green. Business mentors work with interns on building relationships, connecting them with other employees and identifying mentorship opportunities.

The initiative is in part meant to provide a replacement for the lack of "casual collisions," or chance interactions, interns might otherwise have with other employees in a normal office setting, Green said. Fannie Mae interns have connections with their managers, "but we knew they needed more than that," she added. "We needed to create another way to engage with them and show them other areas across the company."

Virtual meetings have replaced coffee runs and lunches for many employers, but interns should have the opportunity to participate as well, Goliber said, which is why Fingerpaint designates times for virtual meetings that allow interns to connect. "We want to ensure everyone feels seen and heard — not only as an intern team, but also as individuals," she added.

Employers should also plan to keep annual traditions alive, however small. Fannie Mae interns will still receive t-shirts, Green said, but they also have the opportunity to participate in virtual community service events. The company confirmed to HR Dive that its interns will participate in a virtual event with the nonprofit Love for the Elderly, collecting homemade cards and mailing them to global older adult communities.

SOURCE: Golden, R. (30 June 2020) "3 tips for a successful virtual internship program" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/3-tips-for-a-successful-virtual-internship-program/580803/


The Saxon Advisor - March 2020

Compliance Check

what you need to know


Section 6055/6056 Reporting (Electronic Filing Deadline). Applicable large employers (ALEs) that sponsor self-insured health plans are required by Internal Revenue Code Sections 6055 and 6056 to report information about the coverage to the IRS yearly. IRS Forms 1094-C and 1095-C are used to report coverage information. March 31, 2020, is the deadline to submit these forms if employers are filing electronically.

COBRA General Notice. Employers who provide group health plans must provide a written General Notice of COBRA rights to all covered employees and spouses (if applicable). This notice must be provided 90 days after health plan coverage begins.

Summary Plan Description (SPD). Employers who offer group health plans that are subject to ERISA must provide Summary Plan Descriptions (SPD) to employees who newly enrolled at the beginning of the plan year by March 31, 2020.

Form 1099-R (Electronic Filing Deadline). Employers must file Form 1099-R with the IRS by March 31, 2020, if they are filed electronically.

Form 5330 Excise Tax Return. The Form 5330 excise tax return and payment for excess 2018 ADP/ACP contributions are due March 31, 2020.

Excess Contribution Refunds (over IRS limit). April 15, 2020 is the deadline to return excess retirement plan contributions for elective deferrals exceeding the 402(g) limits.

In this Issue

  • Upcoming Compliance Deadlines
  • Paving the Road to a Successful Portfolio Featuring Brian Bushman
  • Upcoming Saxon U Webinar: Employee Navigator Workshop with Jake Meyer
  • Fresh Brew Featuring Jake Meyer
  • #CommunityStrong: American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising & School Donation Drive

Employee Navigator Workshop

Join us for this interactive and educational Saxon U webinar with Jake Meyer, Saxon Financial Services, as we walk you through certain aspects of Navigator and teach you how to use the most common features.

Paving the Road to a Successful Portfolio

Bringing the knowledge of our in-house advisors right to you...


Determining a proper asset allocation is an important first step in creating your portfolio and planning how it will grow in the future. Asset allocation is the process of diversifying your investments into different asset classes based on the investor’s time horizon, their goals and how much risk they can tolerate.

“People always ask me what they can invest in that will make them a lot of money without the chance of losing any,” said Brian Bushman, Saxon Financial Advisor.

Advice from Brian

Fresh Brew Featuring Jake Meyer

“Educate your employees about their benefits. The more they understand them, the more they will realize how big of a benefit they are.”


This month’s Fresh Brew features Jake Meyer, an Account Executive at Saxon.

Scott’s favorite brew is Rhinegeist Truth, a local Indian Pale Ale from the Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jake doesn’t have a particular snack that he eats when sipping on his favorite brew. He instead likes to enjoy the hops in his favorite IPA.

Learn More About Jake

This Month's #CommunityStrong:
American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

This March, the Saxon team and their families teamed up to raise money for the American Heart Association Heart Mini!

Do you have a strategic approach to the totality of your financial picture?

Saxon creates innovative strategies that will help you figure out how to get there, plan for the risks along the way, navigate complex tax code and understand the steps you need to take to protect and secure your future.

Monthly compliance alerts, educational articles and events
- courtesy of Saxon Financial Advisors.


The Saxon Advisor - February 2020

Compliance Check

what you need to know


Section 6055/6056 Reporting. Employers must file Forms 1094-B and 1095-B, and Forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS by February 28, 2020 if they are filed on paper.

Form 1099-R Paper Filing. Employers must file Form 1099-R with the IRS by February 28, 2020 if they are filed on paper.

CMS Medicare Part D Disclosure. Employers that provide prescription drug coverage must disclose to the CMS whether the plan’s prescription drug coverage is creditable or non-creditable.

Summary of Material Modifications Distribution. Employers who offer a group health plan that is subject to ERISA must distribute a SMM for plan changes that were adopted at the beginning of the year that are material reductions in plan benefits or services.

Section 6055/6056 Individual Statements (2019 EXTENDED DEADLINE). Applicable large employers (ALEs) that sponsor self-insured health plans must disclose information about plan coverage to covered employees each year. This deadline was extended from January 31, 2020, to March 2, 2020, this year by the IRS.

ADP/ACP Refunds. Corrective refunds for a failed ADP/ACP test must be made by March 15, 2020, to avoid 10 percent excise tax penalties.

Section 6055/6056 Reporting (Electronic Filing Deadline). Applicable large employers (ALEs) that sponsor self-insured health plans are required by Internal Revenue Code Sections 6055 and 6056 to report information about the coverage to the IRS yearly. IRS Forms 1094-C and 1095-C are used to report coverage information. March 31, 2020, is the deadline to submit these forms if employers are filing electronically.

COBRA General Notice. Employers who provide group health plans must provide a written General Notice of COBRA rights to all covered employees and spouses (if applicable). This notice must be provided 90 days after health plan coverage begins.

Summary Plan Description (SPD). Employers who offer group health plans that are subject to ERISA must provide Summary Plan Descriptions (SPD) to employees who newly enrolled at the beginning of the plan year.

Form 1099-R (Electronic Filing Deadline). Employers must file Form 1099-R with the IRS by March 31, 2020, if they are filed electronically.

Form 5330. The Form 5330 excise tax return and payment for excess 2018 ADP/ACP contributions are due March 31, 2020.

In this Issue

  • Upcoming Compliance Deadlines
  • How to Speak to Your Employees About Their Intimidating Benefits – Featuring Jamie Charlton
  • Fresh Brew Featuring Nat Gustafson
  • This month’s Saxon U: What Employers Should Know About the SECURE Act
  • March’s Saxon U: Saxon’s Humana GO365 Annual Wellness Clinic
  • #CommunityStrong: American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

What Employers Should Know About the SECURE Act

Join us for this interactive and educational Saxon U seminar with Todd Yawit, Director of Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans at Saxon Financial Services, as we discuss what the SECURE Act is and how it impacts your employer-sponsored retirement plan.

How to Speak to Your Employees About Their Intimidating Benefits

Bringing the knowledge of our in-house advisors right to you...


Employers spend thousands annually to secure and offer benefits to their employees. However, a small amount of time and money are devoted to ensuring employees understand and appreciate their benefits. Properly communicating – what you say, how you say it and to whom you say it to – can make a tremendous difference in how employees think, feel and react to their benefits, employer and fellow co-workers.

In this installment of CenterStage, Jamie Charlton, founding partner and CEO of Saxon Financial Services, discusses the importance of offering sound education of benefits to employees, as well as how to effectively communicate their benefits in a clear, concise manner.

Advice from Jamie

Fresh Brew Featuring Nat Gustafson

“Always be prepared.”


This month’s Fresh Brew features Nat Gustafson, an Account Manager at Saxon.

In his free time, Nat enjoys snowboarding. When thinking about his greatest adventure, he remembers traveling around Italy. He lives by the catchphrase of, “Roll up your sleeves.”

Nat’s favorite brew is Rhinegeist Truth. His favorite local spot to grab his favorite brew is Mount Lookout Tavern on Linwood Avenue.

Nat’s favorite snack to enjoy with his brew is Chicken wings.

Learn More About Nat

This Month's #CommunityStrong:
American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

This January, February & March, the Saxon team and their families will be teaming up to raise money for the American Heart Association Heart Mini!

Saxon’s Humana GO365 Annual Wellness Clinic

Learn what Go365 is, how it works, how to create engaged employees and how to maximize the 15% wellness incentive credit from the program.

Monthly compliance alerts, educational articles and events
- courtesy of Saxon Financial Advisors.


The Saxon Advisor - January 2020

Compliance Check

what you need to know


Form W-2s are due January 31, 2020. January 31 is the deadline for employers to distribute Form W-2s to employees. Large employers – employers who have more than 250 W-2s – must include the aggregate cost of health coverage.

Form 1099-Rs are due January 31, 2020. Employers must distribute Form 1099-Rs to recipients of 2019 distributions.

Form 945 Distributions. Form 945s must be distributed to plan participants by January 31, 2020, for 2019 non payroll withholding of deposits if they were not made on time and in full to pay all taxes that are due.

Section 6055/6056 Reporting. Employers must file Forms 1094-B and 1095-B, and Forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS by February 28, 2020 if they are filed on paper.

Form 1099-R Paper Filing. Employers must file Form 1099-R with the IRS by February 28, 2020 if they are filed on paper.

CMS Medicare Part D Disclosure. Employers that provide prescription drug coverage must disclose to the CMS whether the plan’s prescription drug coverage is creditable or non-creditable.

Summary of Material Modifications Distribution. Employers who offer a group health plan that is subject to ERISA must distribute a SMM for plan changes that were adopted at the beginning of the year that are material reductions in plan benefits or services

In this Issue

  • Upcoming Compliance Deadlines
  • Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b): What’s the Difference?
  • Fresh Brew Featuring Scott Langhorne
  • This month’s Saxon U: What Employers Should Know About the SECURE Act
  • #CommunityStrong: American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

What Employers Should Know About the SECURE Act

Join us for this interactive and educational Saxon U seminar with Todd Yawit, Director of Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans at Saxon Financial Services, as we discuss what the SECURE Act is and how it impacts your employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b): What's the Difference?

Bringing the knowledge of our in-house advisors right to you...


If you haven’t begun saving for retirement yet, don’t be discouraged. Whether you begin through an employer sponsored plan like a 401(k) or 403(b) or you begin a Traditional or Roth IRA that will allow you to grow earnings from investments through tax deferral, it is never too late or too early to begin planning.

“A major trend we see is that if people don’t have an advisor to meet with, they tend to invest too conservatively, because they are afraid of making a mistake,” said Kevin Hagerty, a Financial Advisor at Saxon Financial.

Advice from Kevin

Fresh Brew Featuring Scott Langhorne

“Pay close attention to detail.”


This month’s Fresh Brew features Scott Langhorne, an Account Manager at Saxon.

Scott’s favorite brew is Bud Light. His favorite local spot to grab his favorite brew is wherever his friends and family are.

Scott’s favorite snack to enjoy with his brew is wings.

Learn More About Scott

This Month's #CommunityStrong:
American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

This January, February & March, the Saxon team and their families will be teaming up to raise money for the American Heart Association Heart Mini! They will be hosting a Happy Hour at Fretboard Brewing Company Wednesday, January 29, from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. to raise money.

Are you prepared for retirement?

Saxon creates strategies that are built around you and your vision for the future. The key is to take the first step of reaching out to a professional and then let us guide you along the path to a confident future.

Monthly compliance alerts, educational articles and events
- courtesy of Saxon Financial Advisors.


The Mega Backdoor Roth IRA and Other Ways to Maximize a 401(k)

Did you know: Numerous 401(k) retirement plans allow after-tax contributions. This creates financial planning opportunities that are frequently overlooked. Read this blog post for more information on maximizing your 401(k) plan.


The most popular workplace-sponsored retirement plan is far and away the 401(k) — a plan that can be both simple and complex at the same time. For some of your clients, it functions as a tax-deductible way to save for retirement. Others might see its intricacies as a way to maximize lifetime wealth, boost investments and minimize taxes. One such niche area of 401(k) planning is after-tax contributions, an often misunderstood and underutilized area of planning.

Before we jump into after-tax contributions, we need to cover the limits and the multiple ways your clients can invest money into 401(k) plans.

Employee Salary Deferrals and Roth

The most traditional way you can contribute money to a 401(k) is by tax-deductible salary deferrals. In 2019, employees can defer up to $19,000 a year. If they’re age 50 or older, they can contribute an additional $6,000 into the plan. In 2020, these numbers for “catch-up contributions” rise to $19,500 and $6,500 respectively.

Someone age 50 or over can put up to $25,000 into a 401(k) in 2019 and $26,000 in 2020 through tax-deductible salary deferrals. Additionally, the salary deferral limits could instead be used as a Roth contribution, but with the same limits. The biggest difference is that Roth contributions are after-tax. And as long as certain requirements are met, the distributions, including investment gains, come out income tax-free, whereas tax-deferred money is taxable upon distribution.

Employer Contributions

Employers often make contributions to a 401(k), with many matching contributions. For instance, if an employee contributes 6% of their salary (up to an annual indexed limit on salary of $280,000 in 2019 and $285,000 in 2020), the company might match 50%, 75%, or 100% of the amount. For example, if an employee earns $100,000 a year and puts in $6,000 and their employer matches 100%, they will also put in $6,000, and the employee will end up with $12,000 in their 401(k). Employers can also make non-elective and profit-sharing contributions.

Annual 401(k) Contribution Cap

Regardless of how money goes into the plan, any individual account has an annual cap that includes combined employee and employer contributions. For 2019, this limit is $56,000 (or $62,000 if the $6,000 catch-up contribution is used for those age 50 and over). For 2020, this limit rises to $57,000 ($63,500 if the $6,500 catch-up contribution is used for those age 50 and over).

Inability to Max Out Accounts

If you look at the limits and how people can contribute, you might quickly realize how hard it is to max out a 401(k). If a client takes the maximum salary deferral of $19,000 and an employer matches 100% (which is rare), your client would only contribute $38,000 into the 401(k) out of the maximum of $56,000. Their employer would need to contribute more money in order to max out.

Where After-Tax Contributions Fit In

Not all plans allow employees to make after-tax contributions. If the 401(k) did allow this type of contribution, someone could add more money to the plan in the previous example that otherwise maxed out at $38,000.

After-tax contributions don’t count against the salary deferral limit of $19,000, but they do count toward the annual cap of $56,000. After-tax contributions are what they sound like — it’s money that’s included into the taxable income after taxes are paid, so the money receives all the other benefits of the 401(k) like tax-deferred investment gains and creditor protections.

With after-tax contributions, clients can put their $19,000 salary deferral into the 401(k), get the $19,000 employer match, and then fill in the $18,000 gap to max out the account at $56,000.

Mega-Roth Opportunity

If the plan allows for in-service distributions of after-tax contributions and tracks after-tax contributions and investment gains in separate accounts from salary deferral and Roth money, there’s an opportunity to do annual planning for Roth IRAs.

Clients can convert after-tax contributions from a 401(k) plan into a Roth IRA, without having to pay additional taxes. If a plan allows in-service distributions of after-tax contributions, the money can be rolled over to a Roth IRA each year. However, it’s important to note that any investment gains on the after-tax amount would still be distributed pro rata and considered taxable. Earnings on after-tax money only receive tax-deferred treatment in a 401(k); they aren’t tax free.

Clients can roll over tens of thousands of dollars a year from a 401(k) to a Roth IRA if the plan is properly set up. They can even set up a plan in such a way so the entire $56,000 limit is after-tax money that’s distributed to a Roth IRA each year with minimal tax implications. This strategy is referred to as the Mega Backdoor Roth strategy.

Complexities Upon Distribution of After-Tax Contributions

What happens to after-tax contributions in a 401(k) upon distribution? This is a complex area where you can help clients understand the role of two factors:

  1. After-tax contributions are distributed pro-rata (proportional) between tax-deferred gain and the after-tax amounts.
  2. Pre-tax money is usually considered for rollover into a new 401(k) or IRA first, leaving the after-tax attributed second. The IRS provided guidance on allocation of after-tax amounts to rollovers in Notice 2014-54.

Best Practices for Rollovers

Help your clients navigate the world of rollovers with after-tax contributions by following best practices. If a client does a full distribution from a 401(k) at retirement or separation of service, they can roll the entire pre-tax amount to a new 401(k) or IRA and separate out the after-tax contributions to roll over into a Roth IRA. The IRS Notice 2014-54 previously mentioned also provides guidance for this scenario.

You can help your clients understand after-tax contributions by envisioning after-tax money in a 401(k) as the best of three worlds. These contributions enter after taxes and give your client tax-deferred money on investment growth, allow them to save more money in their 401(k) while also giving them the opportunity to roll it over into a Roth IRA at a later date.

After-tax contributions build numerous planning options and tax diversification into retirement plans. Before your clients allocate money toward after-tax contributions, it’s important they understand what their plan allows and how it fits into their overall retirement and financial planning picture.

SOURCE: Hopkins, J. (17 December 2019) "The Mega Backdoor Roth IRA and Other Ways to Maximize a 401(k)" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2019/12/17/the-mega-backdoor-roth-ira-and-other-ways-to-maximize-a-401k/


Tech tools underused for workplace engagement: survey

Did you know: Only 45 percent of employers use technology to improve employee engagement, according to a survey of HR professionals. Read the following blog post to learn more about using technology to enhance workplace engagement.


Just 45% of employers are using technology to improve employee engagement, according to a new survey of thousands of HR professionals in organizations of varying sizes.

The research finding comes from the Next Concept Human Resource Association (NCHRA) and Waggl, a real-time engagement platform. HR tech industry professionals weighed in on the topic at the HR TechXpo 2019 and others as part of the latest “Voice of the Workplace” pulse survey.

Of those respondents, 92% said they would like to create a strong internal culture that affects results. In addition, 81% believed that investing in people-focused programs and skills such as onboarding, performance and employee engagement would help increase revenues and profit margins.

Lisa Hickey, VP of professional development at NCHRA, was “a bit surprised” that only 45% of her group’s members reported that their organizations are using technology to improve employee engagement in the face of business volatility and a tight labor market.

NCHRA and Waggl, both based in the San Francisco Bay Area, also distilled into a ranked list crowdsourced responses to a survey question about social media and gamification platforms as tools to increase employee engagement.

Several caveats were expressed. One HR leader, for example, cautioned that they need to be tied to the type of company and demographics, as well as the extent to which employees are willing to embrace change. Another respondent said it’s important that gamification not be “viewed as a nuisance and a distraction from accomplishing job tasks.”

The bottom line is that giving employees an opportunity to help shape their organization’s culture, experience, vision and execution enables them to “feel more connected to the workplace and empowered to drive change,” according to Alex Kinnebrew, chief marketing officer and head of growth strategy for Waggl.

Benefit brokers and advisers can play a critical role in helping their employer clients bridge the technology gap when it comes to improving employee engagement, Hickey believes. “From designing an offering that represents company goals to securing the best technology to administer the program, brokers are guiding you every step of the way and also helping utilize technology beyond benefits administration that delivers more services and solutions for the company,” she says.

Founded in 1960, NCHRA is the nation’s second-largest HR association — serving more than 30,000 professionals in 23 states and several countries and showcasing more than 100 annual educational events.

Waggl’s Employee Voice platform examines critical business topics that include culture, experience, vision and execution. The company’s management team includes executives from Glassdoor, SuccessFactors and Coupa. Customers include Paychex, eBay, City Electric Supply, UCHealth, American Public Media and Freddie Mac.

SOURCE: Shutan, B. (4 December 2019) "Tech tools underused for workplace engagement: survey" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/tech-tools-underused-for-workplace-engagement-survey


6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy

According to recent data from PwC, more and more potential employees are turning down job offers because of bad recruitment experiences. Often, when job candidates have a poor experience while applying for a job, they share the details of their encounter with friends, family and social media. Read this blog post for six steps employers can use to enhance their recruitment strategy.


Employers may be contributing to their organization’s bad reputation without even knowing it during the recruiting process

A strong labor market is presenting employees with more options, allowing them to weigh potential employers against each other, and eliminating the need to accept the first offer they get. Unique and inventive recruiting strategies are vital in attracting the right talent to your organization, but more potential employees are turning down job offers because of bad recruiting experiences, according to data from PwC.

Employers can develop some bad habits when it comes to recruiting, like dragging out the process and even ghosting candidates. When potential employees have a poor experience applying for a job with a company, they are going to share the details of that encounter with friends, family and the world at large thanks to social media.

“Job seekers today expect the hiring process to be streamlined, efficient and customized to their personal preferences, with effortless technology and sincere human interactions,” says Bhushan Sethi, a workforce strategy leader at PwC.

However, very few organizations are providing this experience, according to the PwC survey of 10,000 job seekers. Not only can a bad recruiting experience drive candidates away, it can also create lasting damage to an organization’s reputation as an employer.

“Leaders have an opportunity to gain an edge in the battle for talent by delivering a superior recruiting experience to every candidate, even those who don’t receive an offer,” Sethi says.

But there are ways to make a candidate’s recruiting experience more positive, even if they don’t ultimately get an offer. Here are six steps organizations can take to deliver a “first-rate” recruiting experience to potential candidates.

Find a balance between tech and human interaction

The human interactions candidates experience during the recruitment process makes a stronger impression than any digital experience, the survey shows. “Candidates want positive, direct human interaction throughout the recruiting process, whether that’s in person, over the phone or via email,” Sethi says. “Two-thirds of candidates said personalized initial outreach makes them more likely to apply for a position.”

Technology does have an important role to play in the recruiting process. However, recruiting technology is typically designed with the enterprise, not the candidate, in mind, Sethi says. Employers should look to utilize technology that streamlines routine tasks or makes the hiring process easier for job applicants. About 44% of those surveyed by PwC say they’re open to using automation and technology options for routine touchpoints and to get information during the recruiting process. Another 65% said they would like if an organization had an application dashboard so they could track their progress.

Communicate often and keep the process quick

More than half of job seekers (56%) said they would discourage someone else from applying for a job with a company where they had a bad recruiting experience, according to PwC data. A majority of job seekers (92%) said they’ve experienced poor recruiting practices at some point in their career. Candidates pointed out the two most frustrating behaviors by recruiters: dragging out the process by more than a month and recruiters who withdraw communication with no explanation.

“These practices are rampant: 61% of candidates said they’ve simply stopped hearing from an organization during the hiring process,” Sethi says. “And 67% gave up pursuing a role because the recruiting process took too long.”

Ask for social media details

About 50% of job seekers said they’d be willing to share their social media data with potential employers if it helps to determine a better job and organizational fit. Checking out a potential employee’s social media allows HR to understand more about the candidate. But candidates are only willing to share their social media data if the right privacy measures are in place. Recruiters can gain candidate’s trust by being transparent. About 78% of those surveyed by PwC said they expect the recruiting process to be clear on how personal data is used. About 77% of candidates said they wouldn’t apply for a job if they felt their privacy and information wasn’t protected.

Highlight the rewards potential employees most desire

Upskilling, personal flexibility and inclusion are three key aspects of workplace culture that have become more desirable among candidates than salary, according to PWC. Additionally, candidates are willing to give up 11.7% of their salary for more flexibility and training.

Give candidates a way to experience the company’s culture first hand

Today’s candidates are looking for more than a job, the PwC survey notes. They want an employee experience that provides a sense of purpose and pride.

“Culture is so meaningful that 33% of C-suite-level candidates said they’d take a pay cut to work for a mission-driven company that aligns with their ideals,” Sethi says.

It can be challenging for recruiters to provide an accurate sense of a company’s culture. Recruiters can help candidates experience this firsthand by holding networking and other social events.

Always be mindful of your reputation

When candidates have a bad recruiting experience it does more damage than recruiters realize. “It can cause lasting reputational harm and even hurt your chances of hiring the workers who are hardest to find,” Sethi says.

Almost half of candidates (49%) working in high-demand sectors like tech, banking and energy say they would be more likely to turn down a job due to a bad recruiting experience. Of those surveyed by PwC 71% say working for a company with a good reputation as an employer is more important than working for a well-known customer brand.

“That’s good news for small brands jockeying for talent with big-name competitors,” Sethi says. “You can gain an edge by cultivating and promoting a strong, positive reputation. It’s also a call to action for bigger brands: you can’t rely on name alone to attract talent.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (9 December 2019) "6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from 6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy