Much has been written in this column and elsewhere about the benefits that auto portability, and seamless plan-to-plan portability in general, can provide to millions of retirement-savers across America. As any entrepreneur can testify, it is challenging to initiate a major innovation, and then persevere through all the twists and turns along the road to widespread adoption. Fortunately for everyday Americans saving for retirement, there is already an established blueprint in place for launching a nationwide, private-sector retirement clearinghouse that will enable auto portability.
Consolidation Corner Blog
Consolidation Corner is the Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH) blog, and features the latest articles and bylines from our executives, addressing important retirement savings portability topics.
On November 7th, Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH) issued a press release announcing the results of the first-ever implementation of auto portability, as evaluated by Boston Research Technologies (BRT)’s Warren Cormier in his just-published white paper “Making the Right Choice the Easiest Choice: Eliminating Friction and Leaks in America’s Defined Contribution System.”
Much has been written about the proliferation of small accounts in our nation’s retirement system, and the problems that this explosion has created. A primary solution to the small-account quandary that I have frequently advocated in this column is auto portability.
Two weeks ago, I authored an article applauding the American Benefits Council for their October 2nd, 2017 letter to the Department of Labor (DOL), which clearly identified the root causes of missing participants: a highly-mobile workforce and a lack of retirement savings portability. Extending the Council’s insight, I maintained that what’s really “missing” in our defined contribution system are initiatives that move retirement savings forward when participants change jobs, such as auto portability. When implemented, these initiatives could serve to dramatically decrease the overall incidence of missing participants.
On October 2nd, 2017, the American Benefits Council delivered a letter to the Department of Labor (DoL), urging the DoL to act on the problem of unresponsive or missing participants, an issue that has proven to be a significant point-of-pain for plan sponsors.
The recent hacking of Equifax, which potentially compromised the security of sensitive information for 143 million Americans, doesn’t just reinforce the importance of cybersecurity. This cyberattack also makes a compelling case for the widespread adoption of auto portability.
Today, it’s commonly-accepted practice for retirement plan sponsors to focus on three major initiatives to promote retirement adequacy: participation, saving and diversification.
While these three initiatives are proven, an emerging best practice is for plan sponsors to expand this list, incorporating consolidation, where plan participants are encouraged to consolidate balances from former employers’ plans, using their current-employer’s plan to manage their retirement savings.
It’s generally accepted that the small-balance accounts of terminated 401(k) plan participants have been a problem for plan sponsors, resulting in increased plan costs, fiduciary risk and other ancillary problems, such as missing participants and uncashed distribution checks.
Now, based on new information from EBRI and other sources, we’re learning that small accounts are a large and growing problem for active participants as well.
As we enter the 4th quarter of 2017, many plan sponsors (as well as their advisors) will face the prospect of terminating a 401(k) plan. For most, this will be the first -- and only -- time that they’ll undertake this important initiative, typically without the benefit of prior experience.