Tag Archives: 401(k)

Five ways your retirement plan may change in 2017

dey-elizabethThe start of a new year brings with it reflection on the year that has passed and anticipation for the changes that may be coming. For retirement plans, this often means a look at new federal regulations, new technology, and new industry trends. The annual contribution limit to 401(k) plans is holding steady at $18,000 with employees age 50 and older able to save an additional $6,000. But here are five ways your retirement plan may change in 2017.

1. Focus will start to shift to financial wellness
By now, it’s common knowledge that many Americans aren’t adequately prepared for retirement. But rising costs in healthcare, student loan debt, and other areas make it difficult to plan for retirement expenses when people are struggling to pay for their current expenses. The use of creative tools and incentives may serve as ways to help improve overall financial wellness.

Beyond just offering access to educational programs for employees, covering topics such as how to set and stick to a budget or how to manage and pay down existing debt, employers may offer an additional incentive such as cash or gift cards to entice their employees to participate in financial wellness programs.

2. Financial advice must now be in your best interest
Effective in April and phased in through the remainder of 2017, all financial professionals who provide investment advice to a retirement plan will be considered fiduciaries, and bound by the legal and ethical standards set forth in ERISA. This means that the funds financial professionals recommend must be in the plan’s best interest, instead of funds that would be most profitable for the advisor.

3. You may see a shift in investment options
Gone are the days of dozens of investment options in retirement plans. Instead, plan sponsors are now choosing to streamline their investment lineups to make investing decisions less complex. There’s also a greater emphasis being placed on investment products that offer target date or risk-based options, taking much of the guesswork out of choosing allocations.

The development of robo-advisors for employer-sponsored plans (subscription required) will also help participants with portfolio allocation. These programs use complex algorithms to deliver investment solutions that were previously only available in the retail investment market, but are now making their way to employer-sponsored plans, offering personalized investment advice at lower costs than traditional human advisors.

4. You may be enrolled in your plan even if you don’t take action yourself
Research has shown that when new hires are automatically enrolled in their 401(k) plans, 91% participated, compared with only 42% voluntary participation in plans that don’t offer this feature. Many employers have already taken advantage of this type of plan design, and more are considering adding this feature to their plans. If a plan already implements auto-enroll, adding an annual auto-increase feature may be another way to improve overall retirement savings.

There has also been an increased interest in reenrollment, where employees hired prior to the adoption of the auto-enrollment provision are automatically increased to match the new auto-enrollment level. Any combination of auto-enrollment, auto-increase, or reenrollment can be useful in encouraging retirement savings for participants who may not otherwise contribute.

5. Your plan may be going mobile
Most employer-sponsored retirement plans have some sort of online portal where employees can check balances, view performance, and initiate transactions. However, people are often on the go and may not have access to a laptop or computer—but most usually have access to a smartphone. Development and enhancement of mobile apps will be a focus of many retirement plan providers as the demand for mobile access increases.

There will also be an increased focus on offering a comprehensive overview of retirement readiness. Many retirement plan providers will continue working on offering tools that allow participants to link external accounts for a big-picture view of their overall financial positions.

Administering a 401(k) plan termination

There are certain circumstances that can result in a company terminating its 401(k) plan. Milliman’s Ginny Boggs was quoted in a recent Employee Benefit Adviser article discussing the steps involved with a 401(k) plan termination during the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA) annual conference.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Until all assets within the plan are finally distributed the plan still remains in effect and cannot be terminated. During this time, Boggs recommends that advisers work with their clients on:

• Testing
• Distribution requests due to many participants wanting their money immediately and to assist with loan repayments
• Governmental forms and filings
• QDROs

Advisers should remind their clients to use up their forfeiture accounts through expenses, allocating to participants or offsetting final contributions

“You can’t have any unallocated assets going into plan termination and you do have to liquidate,” Boggs said. “You want to make sure the plan termination amendment encompasses everything that the plan document doesn’t already provide.”

Approach 401(k) eligibility provisions strategically

Employers who take a strategic approach to defining eligibility provisions in a 401(k) plan can contain benefit costs, recruit and retain talent, simplify administration, and comply with regulations. In his article “Making participants out of employees via eligibility,” Milliman’s Noah Buck answers six strategic questions that plan sponsors should take into consideration. The excerpt below highlights two of the questions.

To what degree is the plan used to attract and retain talent?
A law firm does not want highly sought-after recruits joining a competing law firm down the road because they can enter the competing firm’s retirement plan sooner. Employers relying partially on their 401(k) plans for recruitment should consider that quicker and easier access to the plan will be more attractive to those in their prospective talent pools.

Are eligibility and entry date provisions cost-efficient with respect to turnover and vesting?
An organization’s turnover rate and average employee tenure are important to consider. A restaurant chain employing high-turnover wait staff will save cost and administrative energy by requiring employees to work six months before entering the plan instead of requiring one month.

It’s also important to consider the plan’s vesting provisions. If the plan has immediate vesting, the employer matching contributions — meant to supplement long-term retirement savings — could be going right out the door to short-term employees who are allowed to enter the plan too quickly. Employers should consider structuring eligibility and plan entry provisions so employer contributions are more likely to stay in-house with longer-term employees.

Retirement income considerations

The latest issue of Milliman’s Benefit Perspectives features two articles that focus on 401(k) plans and retirement income. “Helping employers in their retirement: 401(k) decisions, decisions, decisions!” by Jinnie Olson explores options employers can implement to help employees access retirement savings. A second article, “Helping 401(k) plan participants calculate withdrawal rates in retirement,” by Matt Kaufman, focuses on calculating withdrawal rates in retirement.

Milliman adds Jacobs Management Corporation as retirement services client

I’m happy to announce that Milliman has added Jacobs Management Corporation as a defined contribution client. Jacobs Management Corporation is a privately held corporation that includes FLW, LLC, a premier tournament fishing organization; the J.R. Watkins Company, America’s original apothecary manufacturer; Larson Boats, best known for their experience in quality boat manufacturing; Marquis Yachts, a builder of luxury and sport yachts; and Jacobs Trading Company, a recognized leader in the closeout trading industry.

David Mahler, Vice President-Treasurer at Jacobs Management Corporation, says, “We chose Milliman for their reputation as a trusted service provider who values commitment to client service. In addition, the website is user-friendly and includes robust tools to assist participants in planning for retirement. Partnership with providers is critical, and Milliman’s unique ability to design services and systems to meet the needs of all of our companies was a strong factor in our decision making.”

At Milliman, we believe most plan sponsors want strong service and a commitment to the industry, not just a low-cost or product-oriented sales pitch. Our focus is to provide superior service and value that exceeds our clients’ expectations. Jacobs Management Corporation recognized this when they chose Milliman as their provider, and we look forward to an enduring relationship with them.

Milliman will provide recordkeeping, administration, communications, and compliance services for the Jacobs Group 401(k) Plan. Advanced Capital Group, headquartered in Minneapolis, assisted with the recordkeeper search and is the independent investment adviser providing consulting services for the plan.

For more information about Milliman’s employee benefit services, click here.

Linking NDCPs with 401(k) requires a “contingency” plan for compliance

Pizzano-DominickThis blog is part of a 12-part series entitled “The nonqualified deferred compensation plan (NDCP) dirty dozen: An administrative guide to avoiding 12 traps.” To read the introduction to the series, click here.

Last month’s blog discussed similarities and differences between the rules governing participant deferrals made under a nonqualified deferred compensation plan (NDCP) versus those contributed to a qualified 401(k) plan. This month’s entry will again turn to the NDCP-401(k) connection; however, this time it will show that when NDCP sponsors choose to link their NDCP’s benefits with their 401(k) plans’, they must be aware of and comply with not only Internal Revenue Code Section 409A’s restrictions but also Section 401(k)’s “contingent benefit rule” (CBR). While such compliance does not directly affect the NDCP, it is a qualification requirement for the 401(k) plan.

In general, an employer may not directly or indirectly condition another employer benefit (other than matching contributions) upon an employee’s election to make or not make elective contributions. If the employer conditions any such other employer benefit upon elective contributions, it is a qualification defect. The purpose of this rule is to prevent employers from encouraging employees to make or not make elective contributions by linking valuable benefits to their contributions or lack of contributions. These other benefits include but are not limited to the following:

• Benefits under a defined benefit plan
• Nonelective employer contributions to a defined contribution plan
• The right to make after-tax employee contributions
• The right to health and life insurance
• The right to employment
• Benefits under a NDCP

Because NDCP benefits are included among the items for which 401(k) contingency is prohibited, NDCP sponsors must guard against including provisions in their NDCPs under which participants may receive additional deferred compensation under the NDCP, depending on whether they make or do not make 401(k) elective contributions. Each of the following three examples illustrates provisions that would create such a contingent benefit and thus a violation of the CBR:

Example 1: Employer T maintains a 401(k) plan for all of its employees and a NDCP for two highly paid executives, Employees R and C. Under the terms of the NDCP, R and C are eligible to participate only if they do not make elective contributions under the 401(k) plan. Participation in the NDCP is a contingent benefit because R’s and C’s participation is conditioned on their electing not to make elective contributions under the 401(k) plan.

Example 2: Assume the same fact pattern as Example 1 except that this time, under the terms of the NDCP, Employees R and C may defer a maximum of 15% of their compensation and may allocate their deferrals between the 401(k) plan and the NDCP in any way they choose (subject to the overall 15% maximum). Because the maximum deferral available under the NDCP depends on the elective deferrals made under the 401(k) plan, the right to participate in the NDCP is a contingent benefit.

Example 3: Employer S maintains three plans: a 401(k) plan, a qualified defined benefit (DB) plan, and a defined benefit NDCP. Under the terms of the NDCP, each participant’s NDCP benefit is offset not only by the qualified DB plan benefit but also by the total account balance under the 401(k) plan. Because the amount a participant elects to defer or not defer under the 401(k) will directly affect the amount of the offset and thus the resulting NDCP benefit, the offset is a contingent benefit.

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