Is a comfortable retirement possible in the superannuation world?

The ASFA Retirement Standard states that an average Australian couple requires about A$640,000 in their superannuation fund at retirement (or A$545,000 for a single person) to live comfortably. According to Milliman’s Jeff Gebler and Wade Matterson, “The personalised nature of each superannuation member’s retirement journey means a one-size-fits-all approach simply cannot deliver the necessary information, products and risk management strategies required to achieve everyone’s desired outcomes.”

In the article “Why the industry’s ‘comfortable retirement’ measures are wrong,” Gebler and Matterson discuss the need for enhanced benchmarks based on available data and communication strategies to deliver better financial outcomes that individuals can live with comfortably.

2016 survey of Indonesian employee benefit obligations

In this report, actuaries Halim Gunawan and Herry Kuswara analyze the employee benefit obligations of Indonesian companies. The authors focus on post-employment, termination, and other long-term employee benefits. The report aims to educate and create awareness about the state of employer-sponsored long-term employee benefit programs in Indonesia.

A personal touch enhances 401(k) plan

One telecommunications company seeking an upgrade of its 401(k) plan’s design and administration determined that Milliman was able to provide them with the type and quality of services needed. Milliman consultants offered the company a three-pronged solution to address several operational concerns related to their 401(k) plan. The case study entitled “Service is in the eye of the beholder” by Dominick Pizzano highlights the approach.

Here is an excerpt:

(1) Plan design revisions. Milliman’s analysis of their situation revealed that several of the ongoing administrative burdens could be addressed through amending the plan. Suggested revisions included (a) removing the joint and survivor annuity requirements which had been included and continued in the plan even though by law the plan was not a type of plan that required such annuities and neither the firm nor participants had expressed any interest in using these payment options; (b) increasing the 401(k) deferral limit which had never been modified to reflect the higher limit that went into effect with a past law change; and (c) adding a $5,000 mandatory cash-out threshold. Milliman proposed amending the plan to incorporate these revisions.

(2) Implementing a more service-oriented administrative approach. There were several operational areas (e.g., loan applications, withdrawal requests, and qualified domestic relations order determinations) where the previous provider did not assume responsibility. Milliman assured the organization that if they made the switch to Milliman, they would be relieved of such tasks in the future as these services would fall within the scope of Milliman’s responsibility.

(3) The existing 401(k) plan currently offered participants a choice of 34 investment alternatives, many of which were similar in asset composition, expense ratio, and average return so as to be redundant. Analysis of the breakdown by fund indicated that many of these funds were not being used by participants. Accordingly, the current array of funds was creating more confusion than appreciation with participants. Milliman proposed to have its investment consultants analyze the existing funds and replace them with a more concise set of funds that would provide sufficient diversification opportunities for participants by covering each of the investment categories previously provided but doing so with a smaller number of funds carrying lower expense ratios. In conjunction with this smart-sizing of the plan’s investment alternatives, Milliman also proposed to have the plan offer Milliman’s InvestMap as an alternative for those participants who did not want to assume the initial task of designing a unique investment portfolio as well as the ongoing responsibility of monitoring fund allocations. By choosing InvestMap, such participants would have an age-appropriate allocation mix created for them upon their selection with such mix proportionately rebalanced as they approached retirement.

Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 chooses Milliman for its defined contribution services

Milliman announced today that we have added the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 DC Plan as a defined contribution client. The plan covers collectively bargained members in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota with approximately 2,300 participants and $155 million in plan assets.

Milliman is providing recordkeeping, consulting, and communication services for the District Council 82 defined contribution plan.

We are thrilled that the Trustees of the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 DC Plan chose to hire Milliman. The Trustees decided to merge two different plans together and it was necessary they had a solid solution in place for their members. The Trustees were confident in our reputation for client service and the solution and approach we discussed resonated with them.

Improving fiduciary practices and duties

In this case study, Milliman’s Katherine Smith discusses a comprehensive review the firm conducted of one organization’s 401(k) fiduciary processes. As a result, Milliman identified three specific areas where the plan administration and governance could improve: fee schedules, expense allocation, and fiduciary plan governance. The changes that were implemented enhanced the participant and plan sponsor experience and fiduciary best practices.

Five months of corporate pension funded status improvement ends with February’s $6 billion decline

Milliman today released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. In February, after five months of steady improvement, these pension plans experienced a $6 billion decline in funded status primarily due to discount rates that plunged from 4.00% in January to 3.89% in February, an 11 basis point drop. The funded ratio for these pensions inched down from 81.6% to 81.5% over the same time period. Robust investment gains of 1.74% helped offset the funded status decline.

While February’s strong investment gains helped soften the blow dealt by the discount rate decline, all eyes are on interest rates right now. The Federal Reserve has signaled it will raise rates this month, which would be welcome news for pension plans.

Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 4.39% by the end of 2017 and 4.99% by the end of 2018) and asset gains (11.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 91% by the end of 2017 and 104% by the end of 2018. Under a pessimistic forecast (3.39% discount rate at the end of 2017 and 2.79% by the end of 2018 and 3.2% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 75% by the end of 2017 and 69% by the end of 2018.