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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.

Innovative Strategies to Help Maximize Social Security Benefits

This July, 2015 white paper from Prudential outlines why Social Security deserves to be considered as a valuable resource worthy of careful stewardship by individuals—and how today’s retirees can best maximize its benefits while helping minimize the taxes on their retirement income in general.

Fiduciary Compliance and Common Errors

This June, 2015 article (with full webinar link) from Cammack Retirement Group addresses common fiduciary compliance errors that are often the focus of entities such as the DOL.

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.

EBRI’s 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey: Having a Retirement Savings Plan a Key Factor in Americans’ Retirement Confidence

The 25th Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) finds Americans’ confidence in their ability to afford a comfortable retirement has continued to rebound from the record lows experienced between 2009 and 2013, but this increased level of confidence does not appear to be grounded on objectively improved retirement preparations.

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.

Money Market Reform and Workplace Savings Plans: A Plan Sponsor Guide to What’s Ahead

A Fidelity white paper, “Money Market Reform and Workplace Savings Plans” identifies whats ahead for plan sponsors regarding the impact of the SEC’s significant regulatory changes for money marketing mutual funds. The paper includes key takeaways, details of the regulatory changes and the practical realities of plan sponsors.

Decline in Individual Account Retirement Plan Ownership 1992 to 2013

EBRI’s November 2014 Issue Brief examines household ownership of a retirement account between 1992 and 2013. Based on data from the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances by the Federal Reserve, the report documents a decline in ownership from 38.8% in 1992 to 36.2% in 2013. The survey defines an individual account plan as an employer-sponsored DC plan, such as a 401(k), a Keogh plan or an IRA.

PBGC Finalizes Additional Guarantee for DC Rollovers

Buck Consultants’ December 1, 2014, issue of For Your Information discusses PBGS recently finalized regulations increasing individual participant maximum benefit guarantees when covered DB plans accept rollovers from DC plans in exchange for lifetime income benefits and are subsequently terminated.

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.

Infographic: Participant Behaviors

This infographic depicts findings from an online survey that OneAmerica fielded on its website for retirement plan participants. Conducted between August and November 2013, the survey’s objective was to gain a better understanding of participants’ behaviors and what resources might be most effective in helping plan participants prepare for retirement.

2014 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey Report

This report, published in June 2014 from Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., provides an interesting look at data collected from 1,833 organizations across the country when they were surveyed about their current and future employee benefits strategies.

“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.

Is the Road to Retirement Smooth for Your Employees or Is There Danger Ahead?

Many employees falsely believe they are saving enough for retirement, or underestimate the amounts they will need.  This article in EBRI’s June 2014 Notes explains which employees are likely to fall short of the goals, and hopefully forewarns employers so they can better prepare these employees.

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.

EBRI’s 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey

EBRI’s 24th Retirement Confidence Survey, published in March, 2014, shows an uptick in Americans’ confidence in their ability to retire. The increased confidence is found primarily among higher income households. On the downside, the survey finds that 36% of workers have less than $1,000 saved, up from 28% previously.

Due Diligence for Target Date Funds Goes Beyond Examining the Glide Path

This White Paper by Vanguard argues that looking solely at the glide path of target date funds-how its asset allocation changes over time– is an incomplete approach to the due diligence plan sponsors should perform on these widely used defined contribution investments.  The paper identifies other areas that deserve scrutiny as part of any due diligence effort.  These include glide path stability, sub-asset allocation and cost.

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.

Can 401(k) Plans Combined with Social Security Provide Adequate Retirement Income?

This January 2014 issue of EBRI Notes offers data to show that with 30 years of participation ina 401(k) plan and assuming Social Security benefits remain at current levels, between 83 and 86 percent of workers will be able to replace at least 60 percent of their age-64 wages and salary on an inflation-adjusted basis.

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.

Re-Visiting Retirement Plan Fee Fairness at the Participant Level

A follow-up to an earlier article, this November 2013 paper by Milliman’s Douglas Conkel provides an overview of his initial argument about the inequity that exists in current revenue sharing for participants. It then goes on to examine the impact of current arrangements on participants and to suggest strategies for improving fee fairness and transparency.

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.