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.
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 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.
Beginning in 2000 and continuing for a decade, American consumers were overtaken by “bacon-mania” – an obsession with the tasty, fried cured-pork treat that included cookbooks, exotic new products and a catchy slogan: “Bacon Makes Everything Better.” Great all by itself, bacon was hailed as having the added virtue of improving the taste of almost any dish it was added to.
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.”
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.
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 marked the 47th annual Earth Day on April 22nd, we were once again reminded of the need to protect our environment. This heightened awareness is testament to how far Americans have come in both recognizing and curbing the wasteful, destructive behaviors that emerged in the decades following World War II. Those excesses have given rise to conservation and environmentalism, and were heralded by the first Earth Day in 1970.
Today, many Americans are hard-pressed to set aside enough savings for a timely or comfortable retirement. The factors most-often cited as driving the coming “retirement crisis” include longer life expectancies, rising healthcare costs and stagnant incomes. The African-American community faces these same challenges plus other economic headwinds, but with larger hurdles to overcome to secure a comfortable retirement.
Over the past year, the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule has been highly-visible, presenting major ramifications for the retirement industry and looming large on the radar screens of retirement services providers.
The underlying rationale for the rule, as stated by the Obama administration in an April 6, 2016 press briefing, was to save retirement investors $17 billion per year in lost retirement savings that result from conflicts of interest in retirement advice. Certainly, anything that protects $17 billion in retirement savings is a worthy goal, if it helps more Americans meet their retirement income needs.
However, there’s a larger hole in our retirement system – cash-out leakage – that inflicts far greater harm to American retirement savers, yet this threat continues to fly beneath our collective radar.