The Frugal Financial Small Business 401(k) Blog
Get the latest industry news, deadlines and tips you need to know to help tackle your fiduciary responsibility needs.
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 to complete a new analysis of the rule’s likely economic impact. As a critic of the Fiduciary Rule, it’s a good bet that President Trump ordered the DOL analysis to build a case for overturning it. If that happens, it would be a huge (yuge?) victory win for brokers and insurance agents – who are currently non-fiduciaries. According to a study from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), these advisors rake in more than $17 billion in excess fees annually due to conflicted advice. If you are a supporter of the Fiduciary Rule like me, it can be easy to be upset by the Trump administration delay. However, I’m not worried about it. Even if this ban on conflicted retirement plan advice is squashed, I am confident the die is cast. Following several high-profile excessive fee lawsuits, more 401(k) plan sponsors than ever are hiring fiduciary-grade financial advisors to lower their liability. The kicker? Their impartial advice is often cheaper than potentially-conflicted, non-fiduciary advice. And I have the numbers to prove it!
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 customers. Like mediums, some 401(k) providers make false claims. Their lies can easily go unnoticed to 401(k) fiduciaries due to the highly-technical nature of 401(k) services. However, believing these lies – and hiring the provider that makes them – can trigger severe consequences. They often mask excessive 401(k) fees or a lack of expertise that can increase fiduciary liability. If you’re a 401(k) fiduciary, identifying 401(k) provider lies is imperative to mitigating your plan liability. The good news? Most are easily debunked with some basic facts. I’d like to channel (pun intended) Harry Houdini by exposing four of the most common lies told by 401(k) providers today.
Subscribe to the The Frugal Financial Small Business 401(k) Blog and receive this free checklist for help in determing the best 401(k) plan design options and fit for your company.
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 also mean severe consequences for plan fiduciaries – including personal liability.
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.
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.
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.