The problem of missing participants continues to receive a great deal of attention from plan sponsors, industry advocates, regulators and politicians. All parties are keen to address the negative outcomes that result when job-changing 401(k) participants leave behind their accounts with former employers, relocate and fail to update their address.
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.
Research has conclusively demonstrated that retirement savings portability dramatically reduces 401(k) cashout leakage, preserves retirement savings and reduces the incidence of missing participants. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that recent retirement public policy activities are increasingly focused on various aspects of portability.
Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH) has released a new video “Addressing the Problem of Missing Participants.” The video integrates new research findings from the March 2018 study “The Mobile Workforce’s Missing Participant Problem” and provides viewers with the most-complete and factual summary of the problem, including:
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.
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.
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.
America’s defined contribution system is unsustainable – urgently requiring an upgrade to effectively deliver on its intended goal – helping millions of Americans enjoy a timely and comfortable retirement.
In late 2017, retirement industry observers breathed a collective sigh of relief when “Rothification” of 401(k) plans, once considered as a part of new tax legislation, was abandoned. With Rothification in the rear-view mirror, policymakers have begun turning their attention to other, more-promising initiatives.
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.
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.