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Topical Benefits Issues & Analysis

Ensuring Good Plan Governance

This short article by attorney firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP lists housekeeping actions to streamline plan administration and minimize exposure to breach of fiduciary duty claims and potential litigation.

Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer Workers and Retirees: Retirement Saving & Spending Study

T. Rowe Price’s June, 2015 Retirement Saving & Spending Study revealed that across groups of 401(k) savers, millennials are following better financial habits than those of baby boomers. The slide presentation uncovers how different generational workers are saving and spending, and identify the statistics that differentiate these populations.

Securing Retirement Income With Annuities

This March 2015 article in USA today discusses QLACs (Qualified Longevity Annuity Contracts) and how they may offer retirees some guarantees that they would not otherwise get in their retirement plans.

The Role of Longevity Annuities in Providing Retirement Security

This November 2014 economic study by The Brookings Institution defines and discusses longevity annuities and how they could increase expected financial security for middle- and -upper -income retirees who have substantial financial assets at the time of retirement.

2014 Inside Benefits Communication Survey

The 2014 Inside Benefits Communication Survey, a collaborative research effort from the National Business Coalition on Health and Benz Communications, is a national survey that explores how companies are making investments in benefits communications and the return on those efforts.  The survey’s data was collected from more than 300 high-level business professionals and provides greater insight into how companies are planning and implementing benefits communication.

Results of 401(k) Wellness Scorecard Reports Positive Trends in Participant Behavior and Plan Design

Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s 401(k) Wellness Scorecard results for the first half of 2014 indicate that saving for retirement and health care expenses was a priority for employees of all ages.  It also suggests that increased mobile access, 401(k) auto features, and more personalized advice have made employee benefit plans more valuable and easier to use for the typical participant.

Research Examines Retirement Readiness Challenge and What Employers Can Do to Improve 401(k) Plans

This October 2014  report from Transamerica’s 15th Annual Retirement Survey reveals positive news for retirement savings in America, but says that there’s still room for improvement.  The report is based on two separate phone surveys conducted earlier in 2014 with 751 for-profit employers and 4143 workers at for-profit firms.  The surveys explored employers’ views on the economy, whether they offer retirement benefits to employees, and American workers’ retirement readiness and expectations. The report recommends steps employers can take to improve their 401(k) plans based on survey results.

Frequently Asked Questions About 401(k) Plans

This September 2014 report from the Investment Company Institute answers frequently asked questions about 401(k) plans, including what percentage of U.S. retirement assets they represent, what the average balance is, and how participants have allocated their investments.

The Fidelity Investments Millennial Money Study: Facts, Figures and Findings

The results of Fidelity’s “Millennial Money Study”, conducted in April 2014, show many Millennials are fully engaged in their financial futures, and some of the results of its study challenge the common stereotypes about how this generation approaches planning for the future.

Delays in Retirement Among Some Workers

This TowersWatson article, based on the firm’s 2013/2014 Global Benefit Attitudes Survey, examines changing retirement patterns of workers in the U. S. and elsewhere. Noting the tendency to delay retirement and increased participation in the workforce of older workers, the article also highlights those employees who are the most likely to postpone retirement.

DB to DC Plan Shift Slowly Stabilizing

A September 2014  analysis by Towers Watson of retirement plan offerings at Fortune 500 companies suggests the shift from defined benefit (DB) plans to defined contribution (DC) plans may be slowly stabilizing, with fewer companies actively moving away from DB plans and establishing new DC plans for salaried employees than at any other point over the last decade.

“Crisis” Management: Uncertainty and the Workplace

This August 2014 Issue Brief summarizes EBRI’s 74th policy forum held in Washington, DC, on May 15, 2014. The symposium featured experts who examined the current and projected future of retirement readiness, employment-based healthcare, and the role that approaches like financial wellness can play in alleviating the strains of uncertainty.

Survey Highlights: Assessing the New Retiree Experience

An online survey of recent retirees and “near retirees” conducted in February and March 2014 by T. Rowe Price shows many retirees are living adequately on less, while   a majority of near retirees say they will have to adjust their style of living in retirement.

“Retirement Vision 2020” Prescribes Successful Savings Strategies to Drive Better Outcomes

A Fidelity white paper, “Retirement Vision 2020″  identifies steps that plan sponsors, advisors, consultants and Washington can take to ensure that as many American workers as possible, across all generations, are prepared for retirement. The paper includes such recommendations as designing a retirement plan for income replacement, accounting for uncovered healthcare costs in retirement and using aggressive defaults for unengaged employees. The paper also advocates personalized help as employees transition into retirement.

Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2013

This July 2014 report based on survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Board in September 2013 captures a snapshot of the financial and economic well-being of U.S. households. The survey also examined the issues they face, their recovery from the Great Recession and perceived risks to their financial stability.

HSA Savings: Potential Accumulations

A July 2014 analysis in EBRI’s Notes shows that a person contributing for 40 years to an HSA could save up to $360,000 if the rate of return was 2.5 percent, $600,000 if the rate of return was 5 percent, and nearly $1.1 million if the rate of return was 7.5 percent, and if there were no withdrawals.

How Much Should People Save for Retirement?

A July 2014 report from the Center for Retirement Research reveals that, according to  its National Retirement Risk Index (NRRI),  half of today’s working families are “at risk” of not being able to maintain their standard of living once they retire.  This report   examines how much households need to save  to maintain pre-retirement living standards by probing these questions :  What is the average amount of saving that will come from retirement savings plans?  What is the average required saving rate to produce adequate retirement income?  Given current saving patterns, how much would households have to save?

2013 Trends in Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation; Spotlight on Plan Participants

This June 2014 research report from The Principal® focuses on participants’ experiences with non-qualified deferred compensation (NQDC) plans. Based on online interviews conducted in late summer 2013, the survey examined factors that drive satisfaction with these plans, how deferral decisions are made and the role of NQDC in retirement readiness for key employees.

Is a Permanent Lump Sum Window Distribution a Viable Pension De-Risking Strategy?

This posting by Jeffrey Keminar on Milliman’s Retirement Townhall blog poses the question of whether plan sponsors should consider a permanent window that would allow terminated vested defined benefit participants to take a lump sum distribution. Advantages cited include no longer have to pay PBGC premiums for participants who take the lump sum and alleviating concern at a future date about trying to locate a participant.  The posting also highlights potential downsides as well as plan administration and compliance responsibilities associated with this strategy.

Building Enduring Retirement Income Systems

This initiative from the American Academy of Actuaries recommends principles for retirement plan design that the organization believes will lead to a better functioning U.S. retirement system. It urges policymakers to re-examine current regulations and practices in light of the prevalence of defined contribution plans as the primary retirement savings vehicle available to U.S. workers. Among the issues this initiative raises is redefining the role of the employer.

Implications of DC Plan Participants’ Retirement Distributions

A December 2013 research paper by Vanguard discusses the implications of the behavior of retirement-age DC plan participants who sever employment. The study finds that most have preserved their retirement savings in a tax-deferred account for five years.

70 Is the New 65

This article by Alicia Munnell of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College demonstrates age 70 is now the “real” retirement age. The article demonstrates how changes in life expectancy and in Social Security’s Delayed Retirement Credit, the tax treatment of benefits and new, income-adjusted charges for basic Medicare and Part D mean that for many all negatively affect income replacement rates.

Vanguard’s How America Saves 2013

This annual study looks at Vanguard’s database of plan sponsors and participants and reports on the latest trends in employer-sponsored retirement plans and participant behavior.

Research Measures DC Plan Participants’ Savings and Investing Behavior

Research from Aon Hewitt, based on the behaviors of 3.5 million eligible employees in 141 defined contribution plans, provides a tool for plan sponsors to gauge how their own plan participants’ behavior stacks up. The report also makes recommendations for improving outcomes through plan structure and communication.

White Paper on Women & Retirement Plans

This White Paper from Lincoln Financial Group’s Retirement Power Research Series examines women as a discreet segment within defined contribution plan participants.

Retirement Income Adequacy

This 2012 research from Aon/Hewitt looks at retirement income adequacy at large companies and concludes that employees should target 11 times final annual pay to ensure adequate income in retirement.

2012 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report

This first quarter 2012 survey of 1000 employers that offer 401(k) plans and 1000 employees looks at the financial benefits employers provide to employees, including retirement savings plans, health savings accounts and financial advice, noting the intersection of the rising  costs of healthcare with saving for retirement.

Retirement Planning in a Post-Crisis Economy

This is the first in a three-part series of reports based on Towers-Watson’s July 2011 survey of current workers about retirement and healthcare benefits. In its fifth consecutive year, the survey encompasses responses from 3074 people about their employer-sponsored retirement and healthcare benefits. The initial report focuses on workers’ attitudes towards their household finances and retirement readiness.