“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” is a quote often attributed to Mark Twain. The same is true of myths about saving for retirement, and retirement services professionals should take it to heart as we begin 2017.
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.
For more than a year now, we have been working with the research team at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), Dr. Ricki Ingalls of Texas State University, and Boston Research Technologies to develop the Auto Portability Simulation (APS). The APS is a robust, quantitatively-based simulation that measures the size, characteristics and behaviors of America’s increasingly mobile workforce. The key findings from that work demonstrate the potential to dramatically reduce retirement plan cash-outs by identifying the long-term, systemic benefits of routine and standardized account consolidation at the time of a participant’s job-change—a technology-based innovation called Auto Portability.
It is intuitive to observe that the easiest way for a plan participant to achieve lifetime participation in the U.S. retirement system is to work for the same employer for 40 years or more. But in today’s highly mobile workforce, that rarely happens. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the average American will change jobs more than seven times during a 40-year working life, indicating that a participant’s average tenure with each employer will be a little over five years. So what can be done to help the vast majority of participants that simply won’t work for one employer for their entire careers?
Hey, plan sponsors: Imagine for a moment that your active participants are Tom Cruise from Mission: Impossible (or Barbara Bain, Peter Graves and Martin Landau, for those of us who remember the classic TV series).
Have you ever received a letter with the notice “Time Sensitive Material! Open Immediately!” boldly splashed across the outside of the envelope, only to sigh with disappointment with what’s on the inside? While the disappointment of false advertising so often seems to be the case with “junk mail,” the warning turns out to be true when we examine the behaviors of retirement plan participants who have recently changed jobs.
In the wake of the Fiduciary Rule, providers of all stripes are broadly reevaluating their strategies for the participant and asset retention that is essential to growing their retirement plan businesses. Over the past two decades, providers have primarily looked to capture IRA rollovers as a means to grow retirement assets. The Department of Labor’s new Fiduciary Rule creates challenges to that model. However, there is another, largely untapped, pool of assets within providers’ reach that can fuel growth—premature cash-outs. Auto portability, and portability solutions in general, represent a new and unique way to tap that potential source of growth.
First, let’s review the definition of “leakage.” If we think of total 401(k) savings as a bucket of water, “leakage” refers to those retirement savings that, like water in a leaky bucket, are withdrawn from the U.S. retirement system every year. There are three holes in the bucket: cash-outs at the point of job change, hardship withdrawals, and loan defaults. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, one of these holes is much bigger than the other two combined—nearly 89% of all leakage is attributed to cash-outs that occur when a participant changes jobs. Hardship withdrawals and loan defaults together account for the remaining 11%.
The Department of Labor’s much-anticipated Fiduciary Rule is ushering in many changes across the retirement services landscape, and the new rules governing the “what, how and why” for advice at the time of a participant’s job change will undoubtedly transform the rollover-to-IRA market. However, a closer reading of the Fiduciary Rule sends a clear, if unstated, signal to plan sponsors, financial advisors and record-keepers—absent a compelling reason to roll over to an IRA, keep participants invested in a qualified defined contribution plan throughout their working lives.
As has happened so many times before, the Baby Boomer generation is once again drawing attention to an unmet need: a seamless way to consolidate their collection of retirement accounts into a single account, which is a necessary step to creating a sturdy retirement plan. Much has been written about how sponsors can improve both their plans’ overall health and their participants’ retirement outcomes by embracing roll-ins; nonetheless, the account-consolidation process remains time-consuming and expensive for most participants.