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.
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.
In November of 2015, Congress enacted the Federal Civil Monetary Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act to apply inflation adjustments to various penalties defined under the Federal Civil Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990. One of those penalties was the $10 per employee penalty for failure to furnish reports to certain former participants and beneficiaries or maintain records. The new penalty, as published in the Federal Register (Table C), is now $28 per employee, effective August 1, 2016.
In his September 2nd, 2015 MarketWatch article One Solution to Three Costly Retirement-Saving Mistakes, RCH’s CEO Spencer Williams provides insight as to why a majority of Americans are not very confident in their retirement readiness. Three costly mistakes consistently plague retirement savers: 1) leaving 401(k) accounts behind when changing jobs, 2) prematurely cashing out and 3) not informing prior employers’ retirement plan record-keepers about address changes.
Whenever I am meeting with a plan sponsor, TPA or recordkeeper for the first time, I ask about returned mail related to missing participants; and almost every time I get…“the look”. The look and/or eye roll that instantly says that returned mail is definitely a problem. The entire retirement industry is all-too-familiar with returned mail related to missing participants. In addition to the money wasted on materials and mailing costs, missing participants create administrative burdens and increase the plan’s fiduciary liability risk. So, what’s a fiduciary to do?
The Case for Automatically Moving Mandatory Distributions Forward
The mandatory distribution-to-Safe Harbor IRA plan feature as commonly utilized today was conceived in 2001 and launched in 2005 with good intentions, and for valid reasons. A mobile workforce, combined with a lack of retirement savings portability, had created a burgeoning problem for plan sponsors: an explosion of small-balance (less than $5,000) accounts left “stranded” in-plan, resulting in rampant cashouts, missing participants, uncashed distribution checks and the like. These problems only accelerated with the widespread adoption of auto enrollment, beginning in 2009.
"Do You Feel Lucky 401(k) Saver? Do You?"
Collaborating with Retirement Clearinghouse, Boston Research Technologies completed groundbreaking research earlier this year on the mobile workforce and the job changer’s attitudes and behavior regarding their 401(k) accounts during job transition. When asked what these participants did with their prior employer 401(k) accounts, the majority of respondents indicated they left their balances behind with 53% of Millennials, the most mobile age cohort, indicating they had left at least one retirement account with their prior employer.