In extraordinary times like these, it is understandable that Americans need emergency cash injections to pay expenses. But before tapping their 401(k)s, workers should at least follow the advice offered by the old saying “think twice,” and consider all sources of short-term cash, before prematurely cashing out their 401(k) savings (WSJ: “The Emergency 401(k) Button,” March 20). Even if tax and other penalties on 401(k) cash-outs during this period are waived, Americans who cash out forfeit the additional savings which the sums they receive would have accrued by retirement, had they remained incubated in the U.S. retirement system.
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.
Although defined contribution plan recordkeepers and sponsors have made considerable progress helping participants retain savings through reduced fees over the past decade, job-changing participants’ 401(k) savings account balances remain in a state of dangerous limbo, as participants often succumb to the temptation of cashing out. EBRI reports that at least 4.5 million—or 40%—of job-changing participants cash out $92.4 billion in 401(k) savings from the U.S. retirement system every year.
Every year, our nation’s retirement system loses $92 billion in savings because 401(k) plan participants prematurely cash out their accounts when they change jobs. This is the most recent estimate from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), and while this finding affects all American workers, minorities are hit hardest.
Although the financial wellness of employees has emerged as a top priority for employers in recent years, too many workers are still struggling to improve their financial health.
Much has been written in the media, including this column, about the increase in mobility of today’s American workforce.
Fifteen years ago, when safe-harbor IRAs were first proposed as a destination for small, stranded 401(k) accounts that can be automatically rolled out of plans, then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Ann L. Combs spelled out what these investment vehicles were supposed to accomplish.
401(k) account cash-outs remain a potent threat to Americans’ retirement-readiness and by all accounts the U.S. Department of Labor agrees, having issued its final Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) for auto portability at the end of July.
On July 31st, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released the final Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) to Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH) for the RCH Auto Portability program, completing the regulatory framework and clearing the way for auto portability’s widespread adoption.
This new development represents an important milestone on the path to auto portability, a private-sector innovation that will help prevent 401(k) cashout leakage, increase plan efficiencies and improve the prospects of a timely, comfortable and secure retirement for millions of Americans.
The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019, passed by the House of Representatives on May 23, has the potential to make a positive impact on Americans’ retirement readiness. One of the bill’s key provisions involves removing restrictions on open multiple employer plans (MEPs), which would make it less costly for small businesses to offer retirement savings plans to employees.