The (Potential) Dark Side to 401(k) Auto Enrollment – The Participants Seem to Take on More Debt

By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

Auto-enrollment has resulted in millions of people who were not previously putting savings into their company’s 401(k) plan, now actively participating in it. That is a good thing. However according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, many of these workers seem to be offsetting those savings over the long term by taking on more auto and mortgage debt. And that may be a good thing as well. (No, the previous sentence is not a typo.) Read More


By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

A scheme using what appears to be stolen identity information has resulted in a lawsuit by the Attorney’s office in Colorado. Their goal is to recover $2 million in losses from participants’ 401(k) accounts. Read More


By: David I Gensler, MSPA, MAAA, EA

Governmental oversight and compliance of retirement plans has largely shifted away from the IRS over to the Department of Labor (the DOL). At the American Society Of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) national conference in Washington, two speakers, J.K. Nowiejski and Heather Agribo made it abundantly clear that the DOL means business. They cited some daunting statistics. In 2016, the DOL’s Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA – remember, the government loves acronyms) engaged in the following enforcement activities: Read More

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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