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.
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.
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.
The top priorities for these plan sponsors in 2018, outlined in December 2017 by Mercer, include:
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.
Much has been written in this column and elsewhere about the benefits that auto portability, and seamless plan-to-plan portability in general, can provide to millions of retirement-savers across America. As any entrepreneur can testify, it is challenging to initiate a major innovation, and then persevere through all the twists and turns along the road to widespread adoption. Fortunately for everyday Americans saving for retirement, there is already an established blueprint in place for launching a nationwide, private-sector retirement clearinghouse that will enable auto portability.