“Make the smart decision the easiest decision” seems like an obvious goal for plan sponsors when designing participant-directed retirement plans, and it’s certainly driven the rapid adoption of the autos—auto enrollment, auto deferral escalation, and auto investment options, such as target-date funds and managed accounts.
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.
In his most recent article in MarketWatch, "Are you still feeling luck, 401(k) saver?" RCH’s Spencer Williams reprises last year’s 7/10/15 article where he channeled Clint Eastwood’s iconic movie hero “Dirty Harry” Callahan. Just like the movie villains whose luck ran out at the hands of Dirty Harry, retirement savers who strand their 401(k) accounts must run a gauntlet of decidedly unlucky outcomes – including involuntary cashouts, automatic rollovers and savings-depleting fees.
Have you ever received a letter with the notice “Time Sensitive Material! Open Immediately!” boldly splashed across the outside of the envelope, only to sigh with disappointment with what’s on the inside? While the disappointment of false advertising so often seems to be the case with “junk mail,” the warning turns out to be true when we examine the behaviors of retirement plan participants who have recently changed jobs.
In his most recent article in MarketWatch, RCH’s Spencer Williams cites the recent market trauma experienced in the wake of the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union (“Brexit”) as a good reason for retirement-savers to consolidate their accounts.
In the wake of the Fiduciary Rule, providers of all stripes are broadly reevaluating their strategies for the participant and asset retention that is essential to growing their retirement plan businesses. Over the past two decades, providers have primarily looked to capture IRA rollovers as a means to grow retirement assets. The Department of Labor’s new Fiduciary Rule creates challenges to that model. However, there is another, largely untapped, pool of assets within providers’ reach that can fuel growth—premature cash-outs. Auto portability, and portability solutions in general, represent a new and unique way to tap that potential source of growth.
First, let’s review the definition of “leakage.” If we think of total 401(k) savings as a bucket of water, “leakage” refers to those retirement savings that, like water in a leaky bucket, are withdrawn from the U.S. retirement system every year. There are three holes in the bucket: cash-outs at the point of job change, hardship withdrawals, and loan defaults. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, one of these holes is much bigger than the other two combined—nearly 89% of all leakage is attributed to cash-outs that occur when a participant changes jobs. Hardship withdrawals and loan defaults together account for the remaining 11%.
The Department of Labor’s much-anticipated Fiduciary Rule is ushering in many changes across the retirement services landscape, and the new rules governing the “what, how and why” for advice at the time of a participant’s job change will undoubtedly transform the rollover-to-IRA market. However, a closer reading of the Fiduciary Rule sends a clear, if unstated, signal to plan sponsors, financial advisors and record-keepers—absent a compelling reason to roll over to an IRA, keep participants invested in a qualified defined contribution plan throughout their working lives.
As we observe the 46th annual Earth Day this April 22nd, we appreciate the awareness that this event has brought to the need to protect our environment, the urgency that it’s instilled in all of us, and the tangible results that have been achieved in so many important areas. Although we have much work to do, we’ve clearly come a long way since the “throwaway” culture that emerged following World War II.