During testimony in a July 28th hearing held by the Senate Finance Committee (Building on Bipartisan Retirement Legislation: How Can Congress Help?), Aliya Robinson, Senior Vice President of Retirement and Compensation Policy for the ERISA Advisory Committee (ERIC), twice voiced her support for auto portability, the new plan feature that automatically moves small balances to the new employer’s plan when participants 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.
Arriving with little fanfare, a recent study prepared by the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan committee of the United States Congress, confirms the findings of earlier research on cashout leakage – namely, that cashout leakage is a big problem, is driven by job changing, and is exacerbated by "forced distributions and [a lack of] portability of plans.”
French author and poet Victor Hugo observed: “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
In theory at least, plan-to-plan portability has always been a feature of our 401(k) system. In practice, it’s been completely impractical for all but a hardy few. The idea of automating 401(k) portability was the holy grail, a ‘moonshot’ generally believed to be impossible…until now.
During the COVID-19 crisis, massive job losses combined with economic hardship and relaxed restrictions on withdrawals have created the conditions for a perfect storm of 401(k) cashout leakage. Unfortunately, this storm may soon gain more strength, when a surge in end-of-year 401(k) plan terminations could trigger a new flood of cashouts, as participants are forced to leave their former employers’ plans.
Fifteen years ago, when safe-harbor IRAs were first proposed as a destination for small, stranded 401(k) accounts that can be automatically rolled out of plans, then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Ann L. Combs spelled out what these investment vehicles were supposed to accomplish.
Cashout leakage, a long-standing problem in America’s defined contribution system, is a silent crisis that unnecessarily robs millions of Americans of a comfortable, timely or secure retirement. Plagued by misunderstanding and neglect, it’s vitally important to understand the problem and to take decisive action to curb it. The third of a five-part series, this article addresses the magnitude of the 401(k) cashout leakage problem.
Cashout leakage, a long-standing problem in America’s defined contribution system, is a silent crisis that unnecessarily robs millions of Americans of a comfortable, timely or secure retirement. Plagued by misunderstanding and neglect, it’s vitally important to understand the problem and to take decisive action to curb it.