Tag Archives: Baby Boomers

Boomerang employees: What employers need to know

In general terms, a boomerang employee is an individual who leaves an organization and later returns. The often-used and well-known example is Michael Jordan and his stint as a baseball player before returning to playing basketball in the NBA. Lately, however, there is a new trend among boomerang employees. Some are returning to their previous employers, but not from another company. Instead, they are actually coming out of retirement. This movement has become popular to the point that companies are implementing formal programs aimed at rehiring retirees. Some see the rehiring as crucial, especially given how Baby Boomers are retiring at an exceedingly faster rate (current estimates show 10,000 file for retirement benefits per day) and the much discussed labor shortage that some industries are currently experiencing.

These boomerang programs are expected to grow, especially among larger companies with the resources to implement this type of program and take on the associated costs. In fact, phased retirement for federal government employees has been rolled out over the last few years. Such a program allows employees considering retirement to instead reduce their hours over time while still receiving retirement benefits as active employees.

For the most part, retirees are rehired to work less than 1,000 hours per year, which reduces some of the associated retirement plan costs. But if an organization has this type of program, or is looking to implement one, it is worth taking the necessary time to review retirement plan documentation as well other benefits policies regarding rehires. Some things to consider when reviewing the retirement plan are:

• Does a company’s plan exclude any types of employees?
• How does the plan define eligibility for employee and employer contributions (or eligibility for benefit accruals in a defined benefit plan)? (Read carefully—it’s very likely rehired employees will be immediately eligible for employee contributions, at a minimum, and that should be properly communicated.)
• Make sure to have resources in place, internally or through the plan’s third-party administrator (TPA), to answer questions and confirm operational compliance.
• Review the plan’s withdrawal options—are they flexible?
• Is a procedure in place to ensure that employees terminating employment in order to start retirement distributions have a bona fide break in service (as opposed to a brief, sham retirement before starting distributions and returning to work)?
• Lastly, consult with your ERISA counsel for clarification if there are any concerns or questions regarding Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules and other legislation.

When reviewing the health insurance repercussions for the boomerang employee, the most important thing to consider is how many hours this employee will be working during the year. As an employer, if the rehired employee(s) are only scheduled to work 1,000 for the year (20 hours per week), as seems to be the trend, there is no requirement to offer these rehired retirees health insurance. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has strict rules on how rehires and new hires are classified and clearly defines full-time employees as those who work 30 hours per week.

However, the health plan specs should be reviewed carefully for items such as break in service rules, etc. The employer may wish to consider providing boomerang employees designated health insurance and retirement plan call center or HR resources to tackle these sometimes complex rules.

Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, there are many benefits to such a program. It can be great for organizational culture. “Retiree employees” know the ins and outs of a company and can continue to operate in familiar job functions or can step up to a mentor role; often they are happy to be working and create positive morale. There are also the benefits to the employer: not having to extensively train new hires; being able to implement flexible scheduling such as on an on-call, contract, or project basis; the ability to access years of historical data and information through individuals; and even using a potential retiree rehire program for retention purposes.

Overall, this is an interesting development in the human resources realm and serves as some food for thought.

Recruiting a workforce with intergenerational strategies

By 2020, five generations will work together at some companies for the first time. Human Resources (HR) departments that prepare to meet the different needs of each generation will secure the best talent. A recruitment approach that aligns corporate business strategies, internal equity, and employee compensation can be an effective strategy. Milliman’s Anthony Halim offers perspective in his article “Effective intergenerational employee compensation approaches.”

Goodbye rollovers, hello “stay-overs”

Moen-AlexNo surprise here—Baby Boomers are retiring. But as they retire, there is a new trend in town, the “stay-over.” The stay-over approach represents a shift in thinking about how employees will handle their retirement savings investments. Instead of rolling money out of employer plans into IRAs, the stay-over approach encourages retirees to keep their money in their current company-sponsored plans.

Plan sponsors, and their plan advisors, are now competing to keep retirees’ money in employer plans. The reason? As that extremely large workforce exits, sponsors are worried about their ability to negotiate fees with their outside fund managers and maintain lower overall fees for plan participants. Plan sponsors are now forced to weigh traditional concerns related to administration and compliance costs against fee negotiations. A recent Wall Street Journal article says, “Workers pay about 0.45% of assets in fees to outside money managers when they remain in the firm’s 401(k) plan; by comparison, experts estimate they would pay fees of more than 1.5% in IRAs.” Increased plan assets create economies of scale, which in turn reduces the level of fees for all participants in the plan. This movement is also in line with the overarching goal of encouraging retirees’ savings, focusing on keeping money in the plan, and educating employees about their options. Baby Boomer assets in defined contribution/401(k) plans currently total $4 trillion dollars, according to the same Wall Street Journal article, and 2013 was the first year that plan level withdrawals exceeded contributions. This rollover versus stay-over debate is just beginning to launch.

Employees benefit by keeping their balances in the plan as well. Fees paid by participants have a huge impact on the growth of investments over time, thus participants can benefit from the lower fees. Retirees face pressure from outside financial advisors who will try to convince them that keeping money in employer plans adds a layer of difficulty to investment changes and accessing funds. On the contrary, though, investing can be easier for ex-employees to manage because they are more familiar with the fund offerings and fewer choices are less overwhelming. Usually plan investment options are selected and monitored by independent investment advisors who work with the plan fiduciaries—this translates into professional unbiased advisory services, which benefits all participants. A plan feature to consider, which will aid and encourage workers to keep money in the plan, is ad hoc withdrawals for retirees, allowing participants to access their accounts the same way they would in an IRA, and take money as needed. This is a balancing act, however, as the retiree still needs to be aware of the risks of removing money and should have a financial plan in place for retirement.

Employers and plan sponsors should think big. Rather than designing retirement savings plans for the length of time the employee is with the company, plans should represent a tool for lifetime retirement savings for all workers.

Baby Boomers and Millennials: Two generations prepare for retirement

Murray-SarahMuch has been said and written about the differences between generations. Indeed, two separate studies recently highlighted retirement planning trends among two different cohorts. Baby Boomers were the subject of a December 2014 report issued by the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), “Baby Boomers Are Revolutionizing Retirement: Are They and Their Employers Ready?” and a younger generation got the spotlight in the Principal Financial Group’s 2015 Millennial Research Study.

The people of the Baby Boom generation have been trailblazers in many ways and it seems their retirement plans are no different. According to the TCRS report, Baby Boomers are changing the traditional idea of what the golden years should look like, out of necessity if for no other reason. A somewhat grim statistic from the report is that 41% of Baby Boomers expect their standard of living to decrease when they retire. With longer life expectancies, the rising cost of healthcare, and a lack of adequate savings, it’s no surprise that many people in this generation expect to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. Some expect to never stop working completely. Many call working in retirement the “fourth leg” of the traditional “three-legged” stool.

TCRS’s research found that there is a strong desire among Baby Boomers for phased retirement options, but in reality less than half of employers have practices in place—such as the ability to move to a part-time position while drawing retirement benefits—that allow employees to transition into retirement slowly. TCRS’s report discusses ways Baby Boomers can positively change their retirement outlook, such as keeping job skills up to date and seeking advice from a financial advisor. In addition, the report mentions ways employers can help employees transition into retirement, such as providing phased retirement options and educating employees on Social Security and Medicare.

What about the Millennials? While the Principal Financial Group’s report summarized results regarding all aspects of Millennials’ finances, the research included trends in retirement savings. Here are some encouraging statistics in Principal’s report:

• 82% of Millennials feel it is important to save for retirement
• 63% of them started saving for retirement at or before age 25
• 59% of them plan to maximize the amount of pretax contributions allowed in their accounts

Principal’s study also indicates that most Millennials believe they should be contributing more of their pretax pay to their employer-sponsored retirement plans than they currently are, but at least a majority of them have made the crucial step to start saving, no matter how small the contribution.

One notable difference in the generations is technology preferences and usage. Millennials are used to communication through employer websites, email, texting, and even social media sites such as Facebook. While these concepts certainly aren’t foreign to older generations, Millennials are more likely to expect their employers to communicate with them electronically rather than through traditional methods such as regular mail.

Another difference between the two groups is whether or not they expect to be able to rely on Social Security. While many Baby Boomers have already started receiving Social Security, the Principal report states that only 22% of Millennials include Social Security in their retirement planning, presumably because the system’s purported problems have been well covered in the media.

But let’s not pretend that different generations have nothing in common. It’s safe to say that the majority of American workers, regardless of age, know that retirement planning is important, but find it intimidating at times and can benefit from employer assistance. While Principal’s study states that 60% of Millennials expect to be better off financially than their parents, younger people may still find themselves in need of options such as phased retirement and can reap the benefits of an older generation paving the way for change.

As is always the case, the optimal retirement scenario occurs when both the employee and employer contribute to the success of the employee’s retirement goals. Employers can benefit from creating a workplace that supports workers of all ages. Recognizing the differences between generations, developing retirement planning resources that help employees at every stage of their lives, having a broad employee communication and education approach, and supporting phased retirement options can help achieve this goal.

Still at work

A couple of recent studies reveal that not only are more Americans over 65 staying in the work force, but their lifestyle and healthcare costs are driving the decision to delay retirement.

Those are the headlines. The details reveal how the global financial crisis has affected the average investor’s appetite for risk and transformed how they plan to invest for retirement.

According to a report released by Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers, “older workers have delayed retirement because of a drop in household wealth tied to the real estate and stock market falls of the past decade.” Among other things, this trend means younger workers face a harder time moving into the work force and, once there, up the career ladder.

Meanwhile, a survey of financial advisors finds that because the average American’s wealth is tied up in houses and retirement accounts, the events of the past few years have also led to a “flight to safety,” i.e., out of equities and into fixed-income investments.

Instead of reducing their expectations for retirement, however, it seems aging Boomers are not only working longer (presumably to make up for retirement shortfalls) but they’re also seeking guaranteed income products like guaranteed lifetime annuities as a hedge to market volatility and as a means of preserving their current standard of living.

Still, there’s a large gap between what people expect and what they actually need in order to maintain current lifestyle in an uncertain and volatile financial world, no matter how long they delay retirement.