Much has been written about America’s retirement-savings shortfall. Much has also been written about one of the major reasons for this shortfall—the lack of technology and operating standards to make seamless plan-to-plan savings portability easy for America’s highly mobile workforce. The cumbersome and costly nature of DIY portability has made prematurely cashing out small-balance 401(k) savings accounts, or stranding them in former employers’ plans, the easiest options for many participants after they change jobs.
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.
“Not having enough emergency savings for unexpected expenses” is the No. 1 financial concern for Millennials and members of Generation X, and the No. 2 financial concern among Baby Boomers, after retirement security. These findings from a PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey released last year shouldn’t surprise members of the retirement services industry, since too many defined contribution plan participants dip into their 401(k) savings—through loans, hardship withdrawals, or cash-outs upon changing jobs—to fund emergency expenses.
With the announcement of the Department of Labor’s recent actions, auto portability has taken center stage in the retirement industry. While auto portability has been well-known to a relatively small group of industry insiders, its recent, widespread coverage in the media has many asking the question “what is auto portability?”
With so many different -- and important -- perspectives on the matter, the best answer will depend on who’s asking the question.
When auto enrollment was widely adopted under the Pension Protection Act of 2006, it was a well-intentioned idea for helping Americans save more for retirement.
But in this case, what seemed like the perfect recipe for increasing retirement savings for hardworking Americans was missing a key ingredient.
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.
With unemployment nearing historic lows, more career opportunity inevitably translates into greater job mobility. That means that more 401(k) participants will be changing jobs and will face important decisions on what to do with their retirement savings.
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.