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.
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.
At Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH), we’re excited about the 2020 prospects for auto portability. Before we’re too far into a new decade, we wanted to pause, take a breath and share with you some highlights from 2019, a year that’s positioned the newest automatic, default plan feature for widespread adoption.
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.
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.
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.
When Ben Franklin coined the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” he wasn’t considering the problem of missing participants, but 401(k) plan sponsors would be wise to heed Ben’s sage advice.
Today, plan sponsors face an explosion of missing participants, driven by the ongoing adoption of auto enrollment and increasing workforce mobility. Their problems are further compounded by the administrative burden required to locate them, combined with a regulatory minefield that offers little guidance and is prone to taking inconsistent enforcement actions.