Newsletters

Participants are Responsible to Verify Plan Loan Repayments – So Says the Tax Court

By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

 

A recent tax court ruling, Louelia Salomon Frias v. Commissioner, illustrates the importance of verifying that loan repayments are actually being made. Moreover, it is the participant’s responsibility to do so.

The Facts

The participant, Louelia Salomon Frias was a participant in her employer’s 401(k) plan. On 07/27/2012, she signed a loan agreement to borrow $40,000 from her account, which she would repay over two years through bi-weekly payroll deductions. She then went on an approved maternity leave. Read More

Tibble v. Edison – The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

A lawsuit that began in 2011 is finally approaching its conclusion. The plaintiffs claimed that the 17 investment options selected by the plan back in March of 1999 were retail funds instead of lower cost institutional shares. The funds remained in the plan beyond August 16, 2001. That date is particularly relevant since that is as far back as the statute of limitations could go.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court found neither for the plaintiff nor for the defendant, Read More

What traits in their plan’s advisor do plan sponsors value? Which ones should they value?

BY: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA 

Which Qualities Plan Sponsors Do Value

A recent poll of plan sponsors wanted to know which services plan sponsors most value from their advisors. Asked to name their top three, two stood out: Read More

Every company offers a 401(k) plan, don’t they? & What do 401(k) participants want?

By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

401(k) plans are so ubiquitous that we assume that every employer offers a retirement plan to their employees. But that perception is just that; a perception. There are a fair number of small to mid-size firms that do not sponsor a 401(k) retirement program for their employees. The question is why don’t they?

According to research from Pew Charitable Trusts, the two primary reasons given for not offering a 401(k) plan was that they were “too expensive to set up”(37% of the respondents) or “my organization does not have the resources” (22%).

I find both of those statements curious. Read More

Tastes Great vs. Less Filling

By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

When I was younger (much, much younger) Bud Lite ran a series of commercials where quasi- celebrities (most of them were retired athletes) argued back and forth about whether they drank Bud Lite because it “tasted great” or because it had less calories and thus was “less filling” (they had not yet discovered that carbs were bad for you – I told you; this was many, many years ago).

Anyway, this same argument now exists in the 401(k) world in a slightly different form. Which is better – Bundled or Unbundled?

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Six Things You Probably Did Not Know About 401(k) Catch-Up Contributions

By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

The catch-up contribution got its name because it was designed to help older workers “catch up” on contributions they may not have made when they were younger. Simply stated, it is an opportunity to make up for lost time.

Anyone who turns age 50 at any point during a calendar year can make an annual catch-up contribution. In 2017, the catch-up can be as much as an additional $6,000. That is above and beyond the $18,000 401(k) dollar maximum. So an individual turning age 50 during 2017 could defer as much as $24,000 [$18,000 + $6,000].

However, according to research done by Vanguard, only about 16% of plan participants took advantage of the catch-up contribution.

The following are six things that you may not know about catch-up contributions.

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Leakage: It’s A Big Problem (But Perhaps Not The Problem That You Thought It Was)

David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

“Leakage” sounds like something seniors need to worry about. It is certainly not a term that one would associate with a 401(k) plan. But leakage can come in many different forms. And in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, it is leakage from their 401(k) plans that has many American companies concerned.

Leakage is a term from the retirement plan industry that is used when participants tap into or pocket retirement funds early. The article stated that this practice can cause an employee’s ultimate retirement nest egg to shrink by up to 25%.

Many employers have taken some aggressive steps (like auto-enrollment and auto-escalation) to encourage their employees to save in 401(k) plans. But like a bucket with a hole in it, while those savings find their way into a company’s 401(k) plan, there is a growing awareness that the money is not staying there. If older workers cannot afford to retire, it can create a logjam at the top, leaving little room for younger, less-expensive hires.

Leakage primarily takes two forms: loans and distributions that are not rolled over. Let’s look at each one and see how some companies have found some ways to, if not solve the problem, at least slow it down.

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IRS Guidance On Hardship Withdrawals: How To Shift The Documentation Responsibility To The Participant

By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

In April of 2015, in an article in the IRS publication Employee Plan News (yes, there really is such a publication) they clarified that when taking a hardship withdrawal, that it was not sufficient for certain third party administrators (TPAs) to rely on plan participants to keep copies of the documents that proved a hardship withdrawal was due to “an immediate and heavy financial need.”  Documents like the explanation of benefits for medical expenses, the purchase agreement for a participant’s primary residence and/or an invoice for funeral expenses are all examples of the paperwork that the TPA should collect before granting a hardship withdrawal. The IRS further stated that, when examining a plan under audit, the failure of the TPA to keep their own independent records was a plan qualification issue. Whenever the qualification of the plan is at risk, the topic gets my attention.

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Tales From The Front: How Not To Hire The Wrong Person

David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

With the national unemployment rate at 4.8%, the country is essentially at full employment. This of course means that hiring the right person is harder than ever. So we do our due diligence, reviewing the candidate’s resume, doing background checks, checking references where we can. Have you ever considered however, the cost to your organization and to the firm’s other employees, of hiring the wrong person?

What to Look Out For

So what are the red flags that should pop up when interviewing prospective candidates? While the following list is certainly not meant to be all inclusive, here, from a recent poll are the top five red flags that emerged from the interview process when it comes to hiring people:

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Tibble v Edison – Five Lessons Learned

By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

Tibble v Edison broke new ground in terms of clarifying that plan stewards have “an ongoing duty to monitor plan investments.” In the Tibble case, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that an initial fund review was sufficient when facts and circumstances may have changed to preclude the need for an ongoing assessment of a retirement plan’s fund lineup.

However, the defendants in Tibble actually did a lot of things right that many retirement plans fail to do. Here are the top five:

1. They had a formal investment committee 

Two heads are better than one, three heads are better than two, etc. ERISA does not require that the plan’s fiduciary form an investment committee. However, it does require that if you lack the requisite expertise to make the sorts of investment decisions unique to 401(k) plans (establishing the metrics that funds will be benchmarked against, evaluating the fund lineup, etc.), you should reach out to someone or an organization that has that expertise. Forming an investment committee to review the plan’s investment performance is just a wise thing to do.

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