“The number one duty of defined contribution (DC) plan
sponsors is to act for the best interest of plan participants. And,
beneficiaries and terminated employees are still participants,” Jamie
Greenleaf, lead advisor and principal at Cafaro Greenleaf, pointed out to
attendees of the 2018 PLANSPONSOR National Conference.
Terry Dunne, senior vice president and managing director of
Retirement Services at Millennium Trust Company, added that when plan sponsors
spend so much time and energy trying to create a retirement plan, they should
not just focus on the specific period of time when someone works, but also for
when someone retires. “Make sure you are doing as much as you can for
participants when they retire or leave work,” he said.
Dunne noted that the Department of Labor (DOL) and the
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) efforts to create conflict of interest
standards are focused on the adviser community to make sure advisers are going
to present opportunities, investments or IRAs in the best interest of
participants—making sure costs are not too significant and investments are not
too risky, and there is a proper level of diversification in investments for
retirees or terminated employees.
Greenleaf pointed out that these regulations and
discussions around them have put the focus back on participants—the end user of
the plan. Some plan sponsors didn’t know they were fiduciaries until this
discussion, she said.
She suggested that retirement plan committees put together
a mission statement, hopefully looking at the plan as a retirement benefit—not
just addressing the accumulation phase, but also the decumulation phase. “Look
options and investments that are optimal for those near and in
retirement,” Greenleaf told conference attendees.
Dunne added that plan sponsors should think through
carefully what to do if a participant is leaving employment. Plan sponsors need
to improve their communications and make terminating participants feel they are
well-advised and understand what their options are. Plan sponsors should also
encourage individuals to stay connected with the company if they leave their
assets in the plan. “Just turning decisions over to participants at the time of
termination or retirement without guidance can hurt their retirement success,”
Assets left in the plan can drive overall costs down, but
when an employee leaves the company, plan sponsors have less contact with them,
and fiduciary duties to provide notices becomes more difficult if the plan
sponsor loses track of them, Greenleaf noted.
Dunne said “missing” participants are not really missing.
Plan sponsors just need to use the
right tools to find them.
Tools for second phase in life
Protecting DC plan participants from themselves so that
they can be better prepared for retirement post-employment means protecting the
benefits the plan sponsor is trying to provide for them, according to
Greenleaf. She said the retirement plan committee needs to reduce the potential
for plan leakage—reduce the number of loans participants can have, increase the
interest paid on plan loans, and do not allow age 59 ½ in-service
distributions, for example.
Greenleaf also questioned why terminated participants with
a balance less than $1,000 are treated differently than those with a balance
between $1,000 and $5,000. She suggested plan sponsors rollover, rather than
cash out, balances less than $1,000 to keep participants’ investments protected
for future use. “Hopefully the participant will decide to move the money to a
new employer’s plan,” she said.
Regarding the plan leakage issue, an attendee suggested
plan sponsors let terminated participants take loans from the plan so they are
paying back money into the plan, as well as allowing participants who terminate
to repay loans after termination.
Dunne said his firm is seeing larger plan sponsors
implementing sidecar individual retirement accounts (IRAs), creating an
opportunity for individuals fully contributing to the plan to continue to
contribute towards retirement if able.
He also pointed out that there is so much conversation
among legislators and regulators to encourage
people to have guaranteed income. “I think it will take a few more years
for things to happen, but there is movement in that direction. Participants are
interested in that. We need to create a [defined benefit] element for DC plans
for income in retirement,” Dunne said.
In the meantime, Dunne suggested plan sponsors provide
information, education, and calculators to help participants turn their DC
assets into income in retirement. “If a plan sponsor can invest in an adviser
or other person to provide direction for terminating or retiring employees,
that would be extremely helpful,” he said.
Greenleaf added that engaging retirement plan participants
is difficult, but engaging them at retirement is a lot easier because it is
relevant and meaningful to them. She suggested plan sponsors hold education
meetings specific to the participant group close to retirement, focusing not
only on what to do with DC plan assets, but about Social Security and Medicare.
Responding to an attendee question about handling
uncashed checks of either required minimum distributions (RMDs) or
cashouts of low balances, Dunne reiterated that there are many tools to search
for “missing” participants.
here for the original article from Plan Advisor.