A primary responsibility for fiduciaries is to seek out and identify the best available solutions that enable fulfillment of their responsibilities. For plan sponsors tasked with implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of their missing participant program, this can be a difficult task, particularly given the accelerating rate of technological innovation and the virtual explosion of new sources of data available online. In today’s day and age, what is considered a state-of-the-art program today could easily become obsolete tomorrow, rendering a plan’s missing-participant program vulnerable to fiduciary liability.
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.
Over the past few years, we’ve written extensively about auto portability -- what it is, how it works and the significant, positive impact it will have on the retirement security of working Americans. Our positions have been supported by research, predictive models (including EBRI’s RSPM) and real-world results from the initial implementation of auto portability.
In this article, we address an important retirement public policy question: How would a pairing of auto portability with open multiple employer plans (or “open MEPs”) impact the retirement savings of America’s minorities, and particularly, African-Americans?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
For job-changing 401(k) participants with balances greater than $15,000, it was the spring of financial wellness, as the bulk of their retirement savings would remain intact. For less-aristocratic 401(k) savers with balances below $15,000, it was the winter of despair, as most of their savings would be lost on the cashout chopping block or forcibly exiled to a safe harbor IRA, where more savings would perish.
The problem of missing participants continues to receive a great deal of attention from plan sponsors, industry advocates, regulators and politicians. All parties are keen to address the negative outcomes that result when job-changing 401(k) participants leave behind their accounts with former employers, relocate and fail to update their address.
Research has conclusively demonstrated that retirement savings portability dramatically reduces 401(k) cashout leakage, preserves retirement savings and reduces the incidence of missing participants. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that recent retirement public policy activities are increasingly focused on various aspects of portability.
If current trends continue, approximately 104 million women will cash out almost $800 billion in retirement savings, in today’s dollars, over the next generation.
This eye-popping statistic, presented at a “Women and Retirement Income” roundtable discussion on May 22 sponsored by the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), underscores the importance of financial wellness initiatives by plan sponsors to help women participants avoid cash-outs and instead preserve their 401(k) savings in the retirement system.
Plan sponsors intuitively know that an explosion of small-balance 401(k) accounts held by terminated participants can create problems. Unfortunately, few sponsors are clear on the factors that give rise to small accounts, and fewer still understand how they can utilize consolidation programs to solve the problem.
On May 22nd, at a Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) roundtable addressing strategies, choices and decisions for women’s retirement income, important new data was presented that highlights the challenges faced by women in preserving their 401(k) savings when changing jobs – particularly for women with balances less than $5,000.
Much has been written recently about the preponderance of lost and missing participants. This predicament, one of the many offshoots of the problem of too many small accounts, is an urgent one for sponsors to address given reports that the Department of Labor (DOL) is focusing on their ability to locate missing participants during plan audits.