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.
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.
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.
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.
Despite differences big and small, all retirement plan sponsors and record-keepers experience at least one common problem—the seemingly intractable incidence of participants who have left behind small accounts in the plans sponsored by their former employers and failed to update their address when they subsequently change residence, a.k.a. missing participants.
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.
How are you hoping to improve yourself in 2018?
The most common New Year’s resolutions usually have to do with personal appearance, health, or behavior—losing weight, exercising more, dieting, quitting smoking, etc. Popular polls indicate that many of us are after a slimmer, fitter body for ourselves after each New Year’s Day.
Similarly, defined contribution plan sponsors are likely thinking about how they can make their plans more attractive and streamlined in 2018.
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.