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Are Your 401(k) Fees “Reasonable?” Benchmark Them to Find Out
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jun 28, 2017
If you're a 401(k) plan sponsor, you have a fiduciary responsibility to only pay reasonable plan fees and expenses from plan assets. Keeping 401(k) plan fees in check is one of your most important fiduciary responsibilities because even small excessive fee amounts each year can substantially reduce a participant nest egg over decades of saving. Excessive 401(k) fees can also mean severe ...
The DOL Fiduciary Rule – What Employers Need to Know
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jun 14, 2017
On June 9, the Department of Labor's (DOL) Fiduciary Rule took effect and upgraded every stock broker and insurance agent with a 401(k) client to a plan fiduciary under ERISA. However, there is a catch – while these financial advisors were made ERISA fiduciaries on June 9, the DOL won’t “pursue claims against fiduciaries who are working diligently and in good faith to comply with the ...
401(k) Distribution Rules – Frequently Asked Questions
Posted Eric Droblyen on May 31, 2017
If you participate in a 401(k) plan, you should understand the rules for withdrawing money from your account – otherwise known as taking a distribution – even if you don’t plan to touch this money for decades. 401(k) plans have restrictive distribution rules that are tied to your age and employment status. If you don’t understand your plan’s rules, or misinterpret them, you can pay ...
Acquisition or Merger? Don’t Overlook the Seller’s 401(k) Plan!
Posted Eric Droblyen on May 17, 2017
If you’re a small business 401(k) plan sponsor considering the purchase of another company, the last aspect of the deal you’re probably considering is the seller’s 401(k) plan. However, it’s important for you to have a strategy for that plan in place before your deal is closed. Otherwise, you could be stuck with a 401(k) plan that includes costly protected benefits or uncorrected defects.
DOL Fiduciary Rule: Good for Business But Opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Posted Eric Droblyen on May 3, 2017
In February, President Trump ordered the Department of Labor (DOL) to review the Fiduciary Duty Rule as a likely pretense for killing it. To complete the review, the DOL delayed the rule’s implementation by 60 days and asked the public for fresh comments.
New Comparability 401(k) Plans - Are They Right for Your Small Business?
Posted Eric Droblyen on Apr 19, 2017
One of the most common goals for a small business 401(k) plan is maximizing owner contributions up to the legal limit - $60,000 for 2017 (assuming employee catch-up contributions). Often, the cheapest way to meet this goal is using a new comparability profit sharing contribution. Unlike other types of 401(k) profit sharing, these contributions permit an employer to allocate multiple ...
Fee Study of 525 401(k) Financial Advisors – Why Trump Can’t Reverse Tide of Fiduciary Advice
Posted Eric Droblyen on Apr 5, 2017
This week, the DOL delayed the effective date of its Fiduciary Rule – which would define all retirement plan financial advisors as ERISA fiduciaries, effectively banning conflicted 401(k) investment advice that puts advisor profit ahead of client interests – by 60 days from April 10, 2017 to June 9, 2017. The delay was triggered by a memorandum from President Trump that directed the agency ...
The Top 4 Lies Told by 401(k) Providers
Posted Eric Droblyen on Mar 22, 2017
After the death of his beloved mother, Harry Houdini was desperate to contact her from beyond the grave with the help of psychic mediums – who claimed an ability to communicate with the dead. Mediums were very popular at the time, but it didn’t take long for Harry to discover they couldn’t do what they promised. Upset, Harry became determined to expose their lies to protect unwitting ...
401(k) Fees – Frequently Asked Questions by Plan Fiduciaries
Posted Eric Droblyen on Mar 8, 2017
Small businesses that sponsor a 401k plan have a fiduciary responsibility to only pay necessary and reasonable fees from plan assets. Keeping 401k plan fees in check is one of the most important fiduciary responsibilities because excessive fees reduce investment returns unnecessarily, making a comfortable retirement for plan participants less affordable. Not meeting this responsibility can ...
401(k) Index Funds – They Make it Easy to Reduce Fiduciary Liability
Posted Eric Droblyen on Feb 22, 2017
Investment in equity index funds – and other passively-managed investments designed to track a market index – is exploding. According to a Morningstar study, these investments took in a record $504.8 billion in 2016. That’s in contrast to actively-managed funds, which are designed to outperform an index. These funds experienced outflows of $340.1 billion in 2016.
Finding Hidden 401(k) Fees in Participant Disclosure Notices
Posted Eric Droblyen on Feb 8, 2017
In a 2015 study of 4,368 retirement plan participants, the National Association of Retirement Plan Participants (NARPP) found that 89% could not correctly calculate their account fees. Even more disturbing, only 42% knew they were paying fees at all. Most plan participants – 58% - were unaware that fees were being “automatically” deducted from their account.
Roth 401k Deferrals — Answers to Common Questions
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jan 25, 2017
In a 2016 401k plan design study of 2,767 small businesses, we found 66% permit participants to make after-tax Roth deferrals to their personal account. I think it’s safe to assume the high adoption rate of this 401k plan feature is due to participant demand.
4 Traits of the Best Small Business 401k Providers
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jan 11, 2017
There are thousands of 401k providers in the U.S. – many with very different fees, services and expertise. This abundance of choice can make choosing a competent 401k provider with reasonable fees seem overwhelming for small business 401k fiduciaries.
Our Top 10 401k Blogs of 2016: What Topics Were the Most Popular?
Posted Eric Droblyen on Dec 28, 2016
Happy Holidays from the Frugal Fiduciary! As 2016 comes to a close, we looked back through this year’s blogs to find the most read. It turns out our most popular blogs related to the following topics:
401k Eligibility: When to Let Employees Join Your 401k Plan
Posted Eric Droblyen on Dec 14, 2016
During the 401k plan design process, we get a lot of questions from small business 401k fiduciaries about employee eligibility. They want to know when they should let new employees into their 401k plan and their options for keeping certain employees – generally the ones that won’t participate – out.
401k Plan Design Study: What 2,767 Small Business 401k Plans Are Doing
Posted Eric Droblyen on Nov 30, 2016
Small businesses can have dramatically different goals for their 401k plan. While some want to maximize key employee contributions, others want to incentivize rank-and-file contributions. 401k fiduciaries have nearly endless options for meeting these goals – many with very different expenses. The process of matching 401k goals to available options is called 401k plan design.
401k Fees: Are Traditional 401k Services Worth a Smaller Retirement Nest Egg?
Posted Eric Droblyen on Nov 16, 2016
I have a confession – my company’s participant benefit statements are nothing special. While they disclose all the requisite information, they are matter-of-fact and lack color graphics. They’re also delivered electronically, not mailed.
You Want to Terminate Your Multiple Employer 401k Plan? Good Luck with That
Posted Eric Droblyen on Nov 2, 2016
Small business 401k plan terminations can happen for reasons other than going-out-of-business or a business sale. Sometimes, even successful businesses decide to terminate their plan due to a cash crunch or poor employee participation.
Asset-Based 401k Admin Fees Are Unreasonable; Fiduciaries Should Avoid Them
Posted Eric Droblyen on Oct 19, 2016
20 years ago, 401k plans were free. OK not really, but 401k providers used this lie a lot to sell 401k plans to small businesses that didn’t want to pay any out-of-pocket 401k fees. In truth, these plans paid “indirect” fees - like revenue sharing paid by mutual funds and/or wrap fees paid by insurance company variable annuities – to 401k providers based on a percentage of plan assets.
3 Questions for Calculating Small Business 401k Provider Fees
Posted Eric Droblyen on Oct 5, 2016
Small businesses have a fiduciary responsibility to pay only reasonable 401k plan fees. The problem? Too many 401k providers bury their fees in complex disclosure documents. When 401k fees are hard to find, it can be easy for 401k fiduciaries to pay too much for 401k services. When this happens, participant returns are handicapped unnecessarily and fiduciary liability is increased.
Government Shocker! The 401k Form 5500 May Become Useful Soon
Posted Eric Droblyen on Sep 21, 2016
Is Human 401k Advice More Expensive Than Robo Advice? You Might Be Surprised
Posted Eric Droblyen on Sep 7, 2016
A new development in the small business 401k industry is the “robo” 401k provider. These providers use a computer algorithm, instead of a flesh and blood financial advisor, to construct investment portfolios for 401k participants. They claim technology is a less expensive alternative to human advice.
(Possibly) The Biggest Small Business 401k Fee Study Ever!
Posted Eric Droblyen on Aug 24, 2016
Meaningful 401k fee data is hard to come by – and that’s a big problem for small businesses. Sponsors of small business 401k plans have a fiduciary responsibility to keep 401k fees reasonable for plan participants. When this responsibility is not met, the consequences for 401k fiduciaries can be severe - including personal liability.
401k Fiduciary Pro Tip: Uninvested Cash Can Be a Symptom of a Bad 401k Recordkeeper
Posted Eric Droblyen on Aug 10, 2016
401k recordkeepers are like icebergs – you can only see a small fraction of the services they provide. Behind the scenes, they can process tens, if not hundreds, of transactions every day for a 401k plan related to contributions, distributions, inter-fund transfers or fee payments. This transaction volume makes 401k recordkeeping complicated, requiring specialized expertise to do it well.
401k Enrollment: Is a Meeting or E-Delivery Best For Your Small Business 401k Plan?
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jul 27, 2016
When a small business offers a 401k plan, its employees often need some sort of 401k education in order to make the two primary investing decisions applicable to 401k participation – “how much should I save?” and “where should I invest?”
The Myth of the 15 Minute 401k Plan Setup
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jul 13, 2016
Over the past year, several new Internet-based 401k providers have launched in the small business retirement plan market. Led by tech entrepreneurs instead of industry veterans, these providers claim to slash the time it takes to establish a 401k plan using new technology. One says they can deliver a 401k plan in just 15 minutes! Here’s the problem. While technology might speed data ...
John Oliver Should Be Upset; His Hancock 401k Fees Are Too High!
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jun 29, 2016
Recently, John Oliver lambasted the 401k industry and his own 401k plan with John Hancock on his HBO show Last Week Tonight. If you haven’t seen this show segment, you should check it out now - it was educational as well as hilarious. John Oliver’s main beef with his company’s John Hancock 401k plan was its annual fees - 1.69% of plan assets + $24/participant – which he considered excessive.
Safe Harbor 401(k) Plans: Answers To Common Questions
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jun 15, 2016
“Safe harbor” 401(k) plans are the most popular type of 401(k) used by small businesses today. They automatically pass annual ADP/ACP and top heavy tests and allow business owners to maximize contributions to the plan. To achieve safe harbor status, owners are required to make a contribution on behalf of participating employees. For many employers, that trade-off is well worth the cost. ...
401k Disclosure Rules Are Out of Date; It’s Time for Common Sense Reform
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jun 1, 2016
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that government 401k regulations are often inefficient or ineffective. That’s too bad because superfluous regulation generally increases the cost of a 401k plan, which in turn, lowers participant returns.
What’s Old Is New Again: “Mega Back Door” Roth IRA Contributions Spark New Interest in Old School After-Tax Contributions
Posted Holly Roussel-Godfrey on May 24, 2016
Ever hear of voluntary 401k contributions? If you are like most people, probably not. They are after-tax employee contributions like Roth deferrals, but subject to different ERISA rules. Voluntary contributions have been around decades longer than Roth deferrals, but are less popular – mostly because their earnings can’t be withdrawn tax-free at retirement like Roth deferrals.
How to Evaluate 401k Provider Competence in 2 Easy Steps
Posted Eric Droblyen on May 18, 2016
Competence is one of the three top attributes you should consider when shopping for a 401k provider. Unfortunately, it’s also a difficult attribute to evaluate due to the highly-technical nature of 401k services. I mean, can you evaluate and measure the quality of 401k nondiscrimination testing, government reporting, participant disclosures, or the accuracy of distribution processing? ...
Plan Participation Problems? No Problem
Posted Holly Roussel-Godfrey on May 10, 2016
You’ve made the decision to establish a 401(k) plan for your small business, but you’re concerned inertia or procrastination will prevent employees from using it. You know many workers think “I can’t afford to save much so there’s no point of saving at all” or “it’s OK for me to postpone savings because I’m not close to retirement.” So how do you overcome these mental barriers or otherwise ...
What’s the #1 Reason for 401k Lawsuits? Overpriced or Superfluous 401k Services
Posted Eric Droblyen on May 4, 2016
In my last blog, I wrote the key virtue of the DOL’s new fiduciary rule is that it aligns 401k plan sponsor and financial advisor interests. Once the rule is effective, all advisors will be obligated to act in the sole best interest of 401k participants just like 401k sponsors. Prior to the rule, some advisors could fleece 401k plans without consequences – which often left 401k sponsors ...
Setting Up A 401(k) Plan: The Cliff Notes
Posted Holly Roussel-Godfrey on Apr 26, 2016
Making hasty choices when setting up a 401k can cost your business, or your employees, tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary plan expenses. For this reason, it’s important you hire a 401k service provider that’s not only reputable, but also consultative. If a provider tells you they can setup your plan in minutes – run. Setting up a 401k plan that matches your company goals simply ...
The DOL’s New Fiduciary Rule – the Value of 401k Investment Services Will Be More Critical Than Ever
Posted Eric Droblyen on Apr 20, 2016
On April 6, the Department of Labor finalized its long-awaited fiduciary rule for retirement plan investment advice. Under this rule, all financial advisors to retirement plans are required to act according to a “fiduciary” standard – in other words, they must give impartial investment advice that’s in their clients' best interest. Prior to this rule, only some advisors were subject to a ...
3 Tax Advantages of 401k Plans
Posted Holly Roussel-Godfrey on Apr 12, 2016
401k plans offer important tax advantages for small businesses and their employees. If you are a business owner, you should understand these benefits when deciding whether or not to offer a 401k plan to your employees. Too many businesses focus on “what is this going to cost me,” rather than, “what are the benefits?” While we strongly recommend always speaking with your accountant on the ...
Picking 401k Investments and Related Services Is Easy When Fiduciaries Know Their Options
Posted Eric Droblyen on Apr 6, 2016
When a small business sponsors a 401k plan, several investment-related decisions must be made by fiduciaries. Dramatically different fees and expenses can result from this decision-making, so fiduciaries should know their options in order to make “prudent” decisions on behalf of plan participants – an obligation under ERISA. Otherwise, personal liability can result.
When ADP/ACP Testing Fails, 401k Fiduciaries Should Understand Their Options
Posted Eric Droblyen on Mar 23, 2016
Today, most 401k plans operate on a calendar-based plan year cycle. March 15 was an important date for many of these plans – it was the deadline to make any corrective distributions due to a failed 2015 plan year Average Deferral Percentage (ADP) or Average Contribution Percentage (ACP) test in order to avoid a 10% IRS excise tax. Failing an ADP/ACP test is not fun. Highly Compensated ...
SEC Money Market Reform Will Affect Many Small Business 401ks in 2016; 401k Fiduciaries Should Understand its Consequences
Posted Eric Droblyen on Mar 9, 2016
Most 401k plans today offer a low risk investment option designed to maintain a constant net asset value. This option is usually a money market or stable value fund. Recently, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) made changes to the rules that govern money market mutual funds (MMFs). These changes are intended to increase MMF transparency as well as give investors additional protection ...
It’s 401k Testing Season! What Small Businesses Need to Know About 401k Testing
Posted Eric Droblyen on Feb 24, 2016
Each plan year, ERISA requires every 401(k) plan to complete certain tests to confirm they do not discriminate in favor of Highly Compensated Employees (HCEs) or exceed IRS contribution limits. Generally, this annual testing is completed as soon as possible following the close of a plan year. For 401k plans with a plan year that ended December 31, 2015, that means now. While most employers ...
Small Business Retirement Plan Options: 401ks vs. SIMPLE and SEP IRAs
Posted Eric Droblyen on Feb 10, 2016
Defined contribution (DC) plans, such as 401(k) plans, are the most popular type of workplace retirement plan in the United States today. According to Department of Labor statistics, there are 633,021 DC plans in the U.S. (516,293 of which are 401(k) plans), covering more than 90 million total participants.
Shopping For a 401k Plan Doesn’t Need To Be Overwhelming For Small Businesses; A Checklist Can Help
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jan 27, 2016
In my experience, 401k providers are like snowflakes – no two are alike. Their services can vary dramatically in breadth, depth and price. This variability can make it difficult for small business 401k fiduciaries to select providers with services that match their plan’s needs at a reasonable price. That’s a problem. 401k plans should not pay for superfluous services participants won’t use. ...
Is Your Company Part of a Controlled Group? You Need to Know or Risk 401k Plan Disqualification
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jan 13, 2016
Under the IRS’ controlled group rules, two or more employers with common ownership are considered a single employer for purposes of 401k nondiscrimination testing. These rules often obligate all members of a controlled group to cover their employees with the same 401k plan in order to pass annual coverage testing. It’s very important to pass coverage testing each year – failing can mean plan ...
Happy Holidays from the Frugal Fiduciary! Our Top 10 Blogs of 2015
Posted Eric Droblyen on Dec 30, 2015
Happy Holidays! As 2015 comes to a close, we looked back through this year’s blogs to find the most read. This process was instructive. We learned our most popular blogs were the ones written to simplify 401k administration or fiduciary requirements for employers. You can expect more blogs covering these topics during 2016. So, in case you missed them the first time, or just want a ...
Understanding a 401k Plan’s Fiduciary Hierarchy Can Make It Easier for Employers To Meet Fiduciary Responsibilities
Posted Eric Droblyen on Dec 16, 2015
Over the past decade, several high-profile 401k fee lawsuits and DOL efforts to implement a fiduciary standard for professional investment advice have put 401k fiduciary responsibility in the national spotlight. This attention has done little to help employers understand and meet their 401k fiduciary responsibilities. Most employers are still confused and risking personal liability if 401k ...
Good News, 401k Fiduciaries! DOL Fee Disclosure Rules Make ERISA 404(c) Compliance Simple
Posted Eric Droblyen on Dec 2, 2015
During the 4th quarter of each year, most 401k sponsors are distributing notices to participants that disclose certain plan information about the upcoming year – the safe harbor 401k notice is an example. Most sponsors try to coordinate the distribution of these notices with their plan’s annual fee disclosure notice, which is required under ERISA 404a-5 (“404a-5 notice”). The 404a-5 notice ...
Managing 401k Deadlines for the 2016 Plan Year – A Checklist Can Help
Posted Eric Droblyen on Nov 18, 2015
A myriad of tasks must be completed each year to keep a 401k plan in compliance with ERISA. When considered together, ERISA compliance tasks can seem overwhelming to a 401k plan sponsor. When they are unpacked, however, it’s clear they are manageable - especially when you consider many of the more difficult and time consuming tasks may already be handled by a professional Third-Party ...
401k Plan Design – Our Checklist Can Make the Process Simple
Posted Eric Droblyen on Nov 4, 2015
There is no such thing as a “one size ﬁts all” 401k plan. Why? Employer goals for a 401k plan can vary greatly. Some employers want to maximize owner contributions at the lowest overall cost while others want to incentivize employees to save a portion of their paycheck for retirement. The process of matching 401k specifications to employer goals is called plan design. There are 6 major ...
Selecting 401k Service Providers: Determine the Professional Help You Need Before You Shop
Posted Eric Droblyen on Oct 21, 2015
Selecting competent service providers is the most important - and most confusing - fiduciary duty of a 401k sponsor. Why? Services offered by 401k providers can vary dramatically in breadth, depth and price. This variability makes it difficult for 401k sponsors to match appropriate services to plan needs. Many small business 401k plans pay for superfluous services participants do not use. ...
401k Document Retention Rules Made Simple
Posted Eric Droblyen on Oct 7, 2015
Did you know that ERISA requires all employers to retain detailed 401k documents, including testing results, transactions and employee activity – for at least 6 years? If you did not, you’ve got a lot of company. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand and comply with these rules. While only small civil penalties are possible if required plan records are not preserved, missing records can ...
The Federal TSP Is a Baseline for 401k Plans – And Any Small Business Can Match It
Posted Eric Droblyen on Sep 23, 2015
Last week, the Investment Company Institute (ICI), a financial industry association representing mutual fund managers, published a “research” paper about the TSP, titled The Federal Thrift Savings Plan: Can It Be Duplicated? In it, the ICI says the TSP “is often portrayed as a standard for all participant-directed retirement plans…the TSP is a unique arrangement that cannot be compared with ...
401k Fiduciary Outsourcing: Does it Actually Increase an Employer’s Fiduciary Liability?
Posted Eric Droblyen on Sep 9, 2015
Last month, the DOL held 4 days of hearings regarding its proposed fiduciary rule. During these hearings, service providers, industry groups and academics shared their thoughts regarding the DOL proposal. Some of the most colorful testimony was given by Don Trone, a man some people call the “Father of Fiduciary.”
Avoiding 401k Fiduciary Liability Doesn’t Need to Be Difficult; Simple “Best Practices” are the Key
Posted Eric Droblyen on Aug 26, 2015
My favorite guiding principle is Occam’s razor, which Dictionary.com defines as “the maxim that assumptions introduced to explain a thing must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” I don’t know many 401k professionals that value Occam’s razor as much as I do. In fact, I think many actually favor overwrought and overly expensive solutions to 401k issues. I guess this probably makes a lot of ...
VC-Backed 401k Startups: A Paradigm Shift or Flash in the Pan?
Posted Eric Droblyen on Aug 12, 2015
This year, three Internet-based companies joined the retirement plan services industry – Honest Dollar, ForUsAll and Captain401. These startups are noteworthy because they weren’t founded by career retirement plan professionals. Instead, they were founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs backed by Venture Capital (VC) investors.
Will Trial Lawyers be the Sole Beneficiary of a Watered-Down Fiduciary Rule?
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jul 29, 2015
The law firm of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton has had a very good couple of weeks. After winning two high profile 401k fee lawsuits, courts have approved the payment of more than $31.9 million in legal fees. The defendants in these cases were Lockheed Martin Corp and Ameriprise Financial, fiduciaries of their respective 401k plans. The plaintiffs, represented by Schlichter, were 401k ...
A Common Sense 401k Reform - Retirement Labels and Receipts
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jul 15, 2015
According to a National Association of Retirement Plan Participants (NARPP) survey of 4,368 active retirement plan participants, 58% said they didn’t know if they’re paying account fees. Of the participants who know they pay fees, only one in four (26%) could accurately calculate fees. In other words, fewer than 11% could correctly identify and calculate the fees being paid from their ...
Clarity in a Complex World? A 408b-2 Review
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jul 1, 2015
I look at a lot of 401k service provider fee (408b-2) disclosures. At least 2 per week. Some are excellent and straight forward, while others are as clear as mud. This is a problem for 401k fiduciaries. It’s their responsibility to ensure their 401k plan only pays reasonable plan expenses. When 408b-2 disclosures are unclear, satisfying this responsibility becomes more difficult.
The DOL’s Fiduciary Rule: Why Can’t Regulators do Simple?
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jun 17, 2015
Since the DOL released its fiduciary proposal, I’ve been trying to digest it so I can provide any concerns to the DOL during their comment period. This has not been an easy task. The DOL’s proposal is complex. My review got me thinking about DOL regulations in general – why aren’t they less complicated? I think they can be, being more effective in the process.
401k Participants Should Leave Investing to the Pros; Focus on Saving
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jun 3, 2015
Saving for retirement is one of the most important things we must do during our working years. After all, nobody can work forever and living expenses don’t stop after you stop earning a paycheck. And yet too many of us aren’t saving enough for retirement. Why is that? For workers that can afford to save, I think the number one reason is the inability to cut through the complexities of ...
Is Conflict-Free Investment Advice More Expensive than Conflicted Advice?
Posted Eric Droblyen on May 20, 2015
Critics of the DOL’s proposed fiduciary rule, also known as the "conflict of interest rule for investment advice," argue that the rule will make investment advice too costly for many 401k plans. If the critics are right, this issue would be a compelling reason to scuttle the rule – studies have shown that professional advice can help 401k participants increase investment returns. An Aon ...
“Bundling” 401k services with other corporate services can result in fiduciary liability
Posted Eric Droblyen on May 6, 2015
I am a sucker for a deal. As such, I’m an easy target for companies that offer “bundled” products and/or services. I mean, lower prices on items I would otherwise buy a la carte - yes, please! For example, when I buy fast food, I always order a “value meal” that includes a burger, fries and a drink – instead of buying these items individually – to save money. When I shop for cable ...
Watered-Down Fiduciary Rule May be the Best Case Scenario for Investors
Posted Eric Droblyen on Apr 22, 2015
On April 14, 2015, the DOL proposed its long-awaited fiduciary rule designed to protect retirement plan savers from conflicted investment advice. A fiduciary rule was originally proposed in 2010, but it was withdrawn the following year in response to industry opposition. The stakes are high. According to a White House Council of Economic Advisers analysis, conflicts of interest cost ...
Online 401k fee analyzers are a marketing gimmick; fiduciaries and participants should avoid them
Posted Eric Droblyen on Apr 8, 2015
Last year, we wrote an article about a growing number of websites that claim to use technology to help sponsors or participants understand or uncover 401k fees. At the time, we were not fans of any of these sites. We wrote “To fill the gaps in the two DOL fee regulations, private company websites have begun to spring up to meet the underserved needs of sponsors and participants. I try to ...
Beware of Surrender Charges and Other Extraordinary 401k Fees Charged by Insurance Companies
Posted Eric Droblyen on Mar 25, 2015
If your retirement plan’s service provider is an insurance company, there is a good chance your investment options are variable annuities and not mutual funds. If this is the case, it’s important to understand how variable annuities are different than mutual funds – it can be easy to confuse the two. Not understanding the differences between mutual funds and variable annuities can result ...
Jerry Schlichter Interviewed by Frontline; 401k Sponsors Should Take Note
Posted Eric Droblyen on Mar 11, 2015
Last week, Frontline published an article as a follow-up to its 2013 documentary “The Retirement Gamble.” That documentary painted a picture of a retirement industry mired in hidden fees and conflicts of interests. In the new article, Frontline interviewed Jerome Schlichter, a St. Louis attorney specializing in suing plan sponsors for excessive 401k fees. Over the years, Schlichter has ...
DOL’s Fiduciary Rule Advances to OMB; Not Everyone is Happy about It
Posted Eric Droblyen on Mar 4, 2015
On February 23, 2015, President Obama announced that the long-awaited redrafting of the DOL’s “fiduciary rule” was being submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. This rule, also called the “conflict of interest rule for investment advice,” would subject all financial advisors who provide investment advice to retirement plans to a fiduciary (conflict-free) standard ...
Target Monthly Income and not an Account Balance When Saving for Retirement
Posted Eric Droblyen on Feb 25, 2015
Most people consider $100,000 a lot of money – I do anyway. But is it a lot of money when you’re saving for retirement? The short answer is it depends upon how old you are. A 30 year-old with a $100,000 nest egg is likely on track for a comfortable retirement at age 65 if they’re saving 10%-15% of their income each year, while a 50 year-old with the same nest egg is likely behind in their ...
Evaluating 401k Providers: Separating Commodity from Value-Added Services
Posted Eric Droblyen on Feb 10, 2015
Selecting competent service providers is one of the most important fiduciary duties of a 401k plan sponsor – and it can appear daunting at first glance. Fortunately, this process can be made much simpler by understanding each service that makes up a 401k plan and applying appropriate benchmarks to those services to measure their value. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to pick 401k ...
NAPA stakes a position against the DOL’s fiduciary rule
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jan 26, 2015
This month, the DOL is expected to propose a “fiduciary rule” for financial advisors that provide investment advice to retirement plans. This rule, also called the “conflict of interest rule for investment advice,” would subject brokers to the same fiduciary obligations as investment advisers. The DOL proposed a fiduciary rule in 2010, but that proposal was withdrawn in 2011 under heavy ...
Keeping my Fingers Crossed for 401k Reform in Tonight’s SOTU Address
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jan 20, 2015
President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union address at 9 p.m. Eastern tonight. During this speech, he is expected to propose reforms to our private retirement plan system. If he does, it will be second year in a row the president addressed retirement plan reform. Last year, the president created the myRA, a new type of retirement account. If you read my last blog, you know I am ...
MyRAs are not the answer for expanding retirement plan coverage
Posted Eric Droblyen on Jan 6, 2015
In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama directed the U.S. Treasury Department to create a new type of savings account for Americans. The myRA—short for “my Retirement Account”—is designed to be a starter account for workers who aren’t covered by a workplace retirement plan.
New Year’s Resolution # 1 for Fiduciaries – “I WILL Evaluate My 401k Plan Fees"
Posted Eric Droblyen on Dec 30, 2014
I have always liked New Year's resolutions. They are a great excuse for ending bad behaviors or starting good ones. Here’s one for all small business 401k sponsors – “I will evaluate my plan fees for reasonableness.” Let me explain why…
JP Morgan publishes a piece on choosing target date funds for your plan. Good points made, but even better points are left out.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Dec 23, 2014
I welcome this “Retirement Insights” piece from J. P. Morgan Asset Management – as far as it goes. The piece makes several excellent points that can benefit all plan sponsors, but presents a view biased toward active management. No surprise. JP Morgan actively manages retirement plan investments – they have a point of view that ultimately promotes the company’s business and brand.
There are no “economies of scale” in 401k plans – unless you are trying to beat the market
Posted Greg Carpenter on Dec 17, 2014
Any 401k plan sponsor in America – repeat ANY – can buy market returns dirt cheap. There are no economies of scale in the market for indexed investments. No minimum purchase requirements. No high pressure sales pitches. Buy an index mutual fund or ETF and you’ve locked in market returns. As I have written previously, this indexed approach is the new baseline for small business 401k plans.
Multiple Employer Plans (MEPs) are a marketing play, not a way to cut costs. We don’t need them.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Dec 10, 2014
MEPs & Lobbying
Reforming Roth provisions may be key to improving savings rates for Millennials. My proposal.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Nov 20, 2014
Roth 401k & Millennials
Let’s put “Income” back in ERISA
Posted Greg Carpenter on Nov 13, 2014
MassMutual settled its “functional fiduciary” lawsuit – a cause for hope for greater fee transparency.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Nov 10, 2014
Functional Fiduciary Lawsuit
Small business owners are redefining the market for 401k plans. Result: Mass market “products” are about to go extinct.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Oct 29, 2014
Small Business 401k Plans
Edison International case highlights a needed reform: Share class restrictions in 401k plans.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Oct 23, 2014
Hiring an ERISA 3(38) Investment Manager can be the simplest way to limit 401k investment liability.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Oct 15, 2014
401k Investment Liability
Financial wellness is impossible to achieve without plan participation. Here’s how to address the issue with your employees.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Oct 8, 2014
Why small business retirement plans with high asset balances actually pay more for their plan services.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Oct 2, 2014
Small Business Retirement Plans
Vanguard’s John Bogle makes his case for improving 401k plans. Here’s why his Senate testimony rocks.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Sep 24, 2014
John Bogle, C-SPAN
Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing today on “Retirement Savings 2.0.” Here is what they should address to help small business retirement plans.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Sep 16, 2014
Small Business Retirement Plans
Brokerage Windows in 401k Plans: Nope. Not even if they say “pretty please.”
Posted Greg Carpenter on Sep 10, 2014
With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on New Jersey in 2012, Governor Chris Christie memorably took to the airwaves. “Get the hell off the beach!” he scolded the stragglers who did not take the storm threat seriously. I feel the same way about brokerage windows within 401k plans. They are risky, potentially very expensive and appropriate for only a very small fraction of 401k investors. Don’t ...
The Power of The “All-In” 401k Fee
Posted Greg Carpenter on Aug 28, 2014
Each time I buy a new car, I get frustrated by the number of variables that affect the total price of a car – discounts, trade-in value, taxes, tag fees, dealer prep, etc. For me, it’s simply easier to start with a total price – the “all-in” price - and then work backward to price each of the itemized fees. That way, I know my total car purchase expense up front and can compare it dealer ...
Former DOL Deputy Director declares scandal in IRA rollovers. It’s a scandal, just not the one he thinks it is.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Aug 20, 2014
New companies are trying to fill the gaps in 401k fee disclosure regulations. Here’s why they all fall short.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Aug 15, 2014
Plan re-enrollment: The “Wonder Drug” for your company’s retirement plan. It’s cheap, simple and benefits sponsors and employees.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Aug 7, 2014
Former Obama administration official offers a plan to “fix” the tax incentives for retirement plans. Here is why it is dead wrong.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jul 30, 2014
Small Business Retirement Plans
In small business retirement plans, the employees with the smallest balances need the most help. Here’s my frugal guide to making the plan work for everyone in your organization.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jul 24, 2014
Small Business Retirement Plans
Revenue sharing is on the decline in 401k plans. Three reasons why it will soon be gone altogether.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jul 16, 2014
GAO suggests changes to the Form 5500 to promote clarity and consistency. We agree.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jul 10, 2014
GAO suggests changes to the Form 5500
Low-cost target date index funds will fundamentally reshape the market for small business retirement plans – and soon!
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jun 25, 2014
Reshaping the market for small business retirement plans
Wall Street Journal article proposes sweeping changes to improve small business retirement plans – including simplifying fee disclosures and requiring index funds. Here’s our analysis.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jun 20, 2014
Photo credit: WSJ Live
Employee Fiduciary Announces Free 401k Fee Comparison Service
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jun 5, 2014
Service intended to help small businesses take current DOL fee disclosure regulations a step further.
Indirect compensation in small business retirement plans made a lot of sense in 1980. So did leisure suits. It’s time to move on.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jun 5, 2014
Photo credit: Leisure Suit Convention, by Liftarn
Small business 401k participants using their 401k plans to save for retirement (!) Part 3 of 3
Posted Greg Carpenter on May 23, 2014
Small Business 401k Plan & Unconventional Wisdom
Here’s how our small business 401k plan clients use low-cost investments. Not the conventional wisdom. Part 2 of 3
Posted Greg Carpenter on May 14, 2014
Small Business 401k Plan & Unconventional Wisdom
The Small Business 401k Plan in 2014: Our Clients Redefine the Conventional Wisdom - Part 1 of 3
Posted Greg Carpenter on May 7, 2014
Small Business 401k Plan & Conventional Wisdom
Industry heavyweight SPARK weighs in on 408(b)(2) fee disclosure reform. We take issue with their key point.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Apr 24, 2014
SPARK Weighs in on 408(b)(2)
ERISA Section 404(c) turns forty this year. Here is a common sense proposal for meaningful reform.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Apr 3, 2014
ERISA Section 404(c)
The DOL asked for input on enhancing its 2012 fee disclosures rules and talking real change. Here are our suggestions on getting it done.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Mar 21, 2014
DOL, Employee Benefits Administration (EBSA)
Yale law professor again hammers high fees and revenue sharing. With a few reservations, I like what they have to say.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Mar 5, 2014
Professor Curtis, Professor Ayres
A Good Try from Congress, but Multiple Employer Plans are not the answer.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Feb 3, 2014
Multiple Employer Plan is Not the Answer
New Year’s resolution: Be a better fiduciary to my plan.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jan 24, 2014
New Year's Small Business 401(k) Plan Resolution
Retirement readiness begins by getting organized. Here are some great free tools.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jan 16, 2014
Get Organized for Retirement Readiness
Retirement readiness? Even with a great 401k most will have to work hard to retire well.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Dec 18, 2013
Retirement Readiness, Keep Working Hard
Press spins industry “research” puff piece into a retirement crisis denial story. Allow me to retort.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Dec 11, 2013
Small Business 401k Plans and Retirement denial?
Schwab’s CEO embraces passive management. And Fidelity confirms a trend. Tipping point?
Posted Greg Carpenter on Nov 20, 2013
Passive Management for Small Business 401k Plans
Consulting giant produces “Seven Little Pages of Retirement Plan Wisdom.” It is a must read.
Posted Greg Carpenter on Nov 13, 2013
Wisdom for Small Business 401k Plans
Mandatory 401(k) Participation. Trending? (I hope not.)
Posted Greg Carpenter on Nov 6, 2013
Let’s go shopping! For a 401k plan?
Posted Greg Carpenter on Nov 1, 2013
I get frustrated reading that high quality, low cost 401k plans are not the norm for small businesses. I think this opinion is the result of too many small business owners who don’t bother to shop the market for 401k plans.
Uncooked Pizza and the Low Cost 401K Plan, Part 2 of 2
Posted Greg Carpenter on Oct 23, 2013
Uncooked Pizza and the Low Cost 401k Plan
The “Take and Bake Revolution” Comes to the 401k, Part 1
Posted Greg Carpenter on Oct 15, 2013
Take and Bake Revolution, Innovative 401k Plans
Guess what percentage of ETF assets are actively managed?
Posted Greg Carpenter on Oct 8, 2013
Going “Bold” on Safe Harbor Plans
Posted Greg Carpenter on Sep 25, 2013
Safe Harbor Plan
Form 5500: The Form that Needs Reform
Posted Greg Carpenter on Aug 30, 2013
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Two-Headed Monster, Fairness and Safe Harbor Plans
Posted Greg Carpenter on Aug 23, 2013
Image courtesy of Marcus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Amateur Hour”? Professor makes waves with Form 5500 study
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jul 31, 2013
Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Life After the 401k Fee Disclosure Rule
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jul 23, 2013
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The ETF moment?
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jul 10, 2013
Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In Praise of the 401k Employer Match
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jun 26, 2013
Image courtesy of kibsri at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Self-directed investing in 401ks: Paternalism or Freedom?
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jun 19, 2013
Image courtesy of watcharakun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
401k Investing: Trends
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jun 12, 2013
Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net Vanguard’s blog recently featured a post titled, "The Adoption of a Great Idea." The post highlighted several technological advances that have improved our standard of living over time and posited the theory that well-diversified, low cost portfolios are poised to be the next big thing. It’s a great thought-starter on investment trends ...
Follow the Money on 401k Fee Disclosures
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jun 5, 2013
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net I recently read a story on FoxBusiness.com titled, “401k Disclosures Not Working For Investors.” The article made the point that participant fee disclosures are at best confusing, and at worst, completely ignored. Friends, it should come as no surprise that I am in favor of more 401k fee disclosures, presented with total clarity. As I ...
Bookmark This: 12 401k Articles for Your Holiday Weekend Reading
Posted Greg Carpenter on May 22, 2013
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net It’s hard to believe, but Memorial Day weekend is almost here. It’s a great time to catch up on the reading you’ve been meaning to do -- particularly reading on retirement issues. I’ve pulled together some of the best 401(k) articles I’ve recently read to give you a jump start. These are great thought-starters whether you’re a small business owner ...
We Got What We Asked For - Now Let’s Ask for Low Cost 401k Plans
Posted Greg Carpenter on May 16, 2013
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net I’m reading a great book called “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” by Michael Moss. You’re probably wondering how a book like this relates to low cost 401k plans. I think you’ll see the parallels shortly. Moss’ basic premise rests on the idea that large corporate interests use high amounts of fat, sugar and salt to sell us large ...
Keep 401k Plan Costs Down: Bogle Interviewed on PBS’ “Frontline”
Posted Greg Carpenter on May 10, 2013
Trying to keep 401(k) plan costs down is a major focus of our work at Employee Fiduciary. Our job is to get your savings invested in the market efficiently – think of us as a pipeline to the market. The less leakage in that pipeline, the better for participants. I was glad to see PBS air a Frontline program on the problems with 401ks. “The Retirement Gamble” addressed the real and growing ...
The 30 Minute Rule: Self-Directed Investing in Your 401k
Posted Greg Carpenter on Apr 17, 2013
Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.ne Recently, the New York Times Dealbook ran a piece on bitcoins which featured two of the Frugster’s favorite capitalism characters, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (who?), better known by their Zuckerbergian nickname “the Winklevii.” If you’re like me, you might be wondering what a “bitcoin” is. Good question. I’ve spent about an hour on the ...
What You Ought to Know About 401k Fiduciary Responsibility
Posted Greg Carpenter on Apr 10, 2013
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net Hello, friends! Apologies for my absence last week. I was traveling abroad (frugally, of course), holding an umbrella in various Italian cities. Although I was an ocean away, I noticed several versions of the same story popping up in my 401k news alerts. Each story got me thinking about what everyone ought to know about the fiduciary ...
The “Plug and Play” 401k
Posted Greg Carpenter on Mar 27, 2013
401k plans have a way of intimidating small business owners. Maybe it’s because of their tax code name. Maybe it’s because of the perception that 401(k) plans are complex and time consuming - taking away from their core business. I think it’s all this and more. One thing is for certain though: it’s time to demystify the 401(k) plan and start looking at it as it really is - a commodity. ...
Two Tips on 401k Fees and Investments
Posted Greg Carpenter on Mar 20, 2013
Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net As readers of this blog know, I get pretty fired up about 401k fees. Fees are the enemy of frugality. And often, they lay low, lurking in the fine print and counting on investors to overlook them when making important investment decisions. Recently, the Department of Labor came out with a great publication titled, “Maximize Your Retirement ...
Make Saving Simple: Automatic 401k Enrollment
Posted Greg Carpenter on Mar 13, 2013
I've always disliked the popular interpretation of the Tortoise and the Hare fable. Slow and steady wins the race, my eye! The tortoise did all that he could. The hare took a nap and barely lost. My interpretation – use your talents (and resources) frugally and you will get the best result possible. If the hare had appropriate incentives… Let's take the unlikely leap to 401k participation ...
401k Testing and Compliance: Is a Safe Harbor Plan Really Frugal?
Posted Greg Carpenter on Mar 11, 2013
At Employee Fiduciary, March is a busy month. And no, I’m not talking about putting together our NCAA brackets. Corporate tax returns are due March 15, which means we are helping our clients analyze the deductibility of 2012 contributions. We are busy completing 401k plan testing and compliance. In a perfect world, all employees would make the maximum contributions to their plan and reap the ...
How and When to Offer Your Employees Self-Directed 401k Investments
Posted Greg Carpenter on Feb 27, 2013
Small business owners have a lot on their plates. Offering a 401k plan to employees is just one of many things they must consider doing when attempting to attract and retain talent. But many companies have employees of all ages, investment knowledge and risk tolerance. How to make the best choice for all? I believe offering a self-directed brokerage investment option in your 401k plan can ...
Boring is Good: Index-Based Target Retirement Funds
Posted Greg Carpenter on Feb 21, 2013
Why Small Companies Choose Vanguard Funds We all want to be the apple of someone’s eye. But when it comes to your 401k, most investment companies simply focus on the love they have for your wallet.
Interstate 401k -- A Road Map to Comprehensive Employee Benefits
Posted Greg Carpenter on Feb 15, 2013
Friends, today I’m posting from Disney World of all places. You might wonder why in a sea of Mickey ears I’m thinking about comprehensive employee benefits, but I’m finding some interesting parallels between visitors to the Magic Kingdom and small business owners trying to do right by their employees.
Myth Busting: 401k Plan Consultations
Posted Greg Carpenter on Feb 8, 2013
You Don’t Need a lot of Money for a Great, Low Cost 401k Plan You’ve probably seen the Discovery television show MythBusters. Two highly intelligent, slightly crazy guys and their team of hipster scientists test common myths, often by literally blowing stuff up. Today we will adopt that approach to a “401k plan consultation” episode, wherein the Frugal Fiduciary (that’s me) blows up the #1 ...
Don't Suffer Losses From Excessive 401k Fees
Posted Greg Carpenter on Feb 1, 2013
There's been a lot of news lately about the effects of concussions on NFL players. Even though it is not nearly as important, it got me thinking of the parallels for those of us with 401(k) plans.
401k Portability like College Coaches
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jan 23, 2013
The end of the college football season is the beginning of the college coaching carousel. The frequent movement of college football coaches and their staffs from one school to another, or to the pros, is the cause of consternation among players, students, administrators, and alums. Sorry Oregon! But by giving coaches the freedom to find the settings that they feel best complements their ...
You Get What You Pay For (Even If You Don’t Need It)
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jan 9, 2013
In Monday’s post, I wrote about the dangers of picking a 401k provider based on brand name only. We left off at the point where the buyer has decided on the investment options best for them and has a few low-cost providers under consideration. Let’s consider the trade-off between fees and services.
The 401k Cart
Posted Greg Carpenter on Jan 7, 2013
It’s commonly accepted that the beginning of a new year presents the opportunity to resolve to do things differently. For some folks that means fewer cupcakes, more frequent trips to the gym, or the classic resolution to save more and spend less - Federal government excepted. As Employee Fiduciary is in the 401k biz, allow me to suggest this resolution: Stop putting the 401k cart before the ...
Welcome to Employee Fiduciary’s Blog
Posted Greg Carpenter on Nov 12, 2012
Employee Fiduciary has been a quiet company, but with all of the changes to the 401(k) industry - and not all for the better - it’s time we make ourselves heard.
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