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Viewpoints: Opinion and Commentary

People within and out of the industry speak out on a variety of issues related to 401k's. One of our most interesting areas, but remember, opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of 401khelpcenter.com.

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DOL Rule to Expand MEPs: A Positive Step, but Broader Savings Options Needed

Abstract: The Department of Labor is considering new rules to facilitate retirement saving in workplace retirement accounts for sole proprietors and the owners and workers of small businesses. While these rules are a small step in the right direction, Congress must simplify saving for retirement and other needs for all Americans. Congress and the Administration should work together to simplify saving for all Americans. Universal Savings Accounts should be first on their agenda.

Source: Heritage.org, January 2019

Much Ado About Nothing: DOL Issues New MEP Guidance

Abstract: The proposed rules that the DOL just published offered pretty much nothing. While it offered more guidance on how associations and professional employer organizations could sponsor MEPs, it did nothing with its restriction on requiring commonality among adopting employers. So the door for Open MEPs remains closed.

Source: Jdsupra.com, October 2018

Why the SEC Will Never Enact a Meaningful Fiduciary Standard

Abstract: The author writes in this opinion piece, "I continue to enjoy reading analyses on the SEC's BI proposal. These are analyses from industry leaders, people who I greatly admire and respect. When people ask my opinion, I just tell them it is all just a cruel game, that the SEC has never intended to protect the public with a meaningful universal fiduciary standard, that the SEC will never do so, as it would jeopardize their own careers and risk incurring the wrath of Wall Street."

Source: Iainsight.wordpress.com, October 2018

DC Plan Customization to Drive Next Wave of Innovation

Abstract: The defined contribution world is poised for change. It will take time -- $20 trillion systems aren't transformed overnight -- but don't let that fool you into underestimating just how big the change will be. This article reviews some of the themes to watch for.

Source: Pionline.com, October 2018

New Policies Needed to Empower Plan Sponsors to Think Outside the Box

Abstract: Plan sponsors and American employees are locked into an antiquated retirement system that has not kept pace with changing demographics, and according to industry experts, US lawmakers and new strategies can help.

Source: Benefitnews.com (registration may be required), August 2018

It's Time for 401k Plans to Become Part of the Sharing Economy

Abstract: Over the last few years there have been those of us in the industry who have advocated for a better way, one that eliminates the fiduciary dysfunction we currently see in the small employer market. The better way is through the aggregation of the plans of unrelated 401k plan sponsors into single plans called multiple employer plans.

Source: Fiduciaryplangovernance.com, June 2018

The Fiduciary State of Confusion: The Saga Continues

Abstract: Sophistication gaps always cause vulnerabilities because one can potentially take advantage of another and cause harm. There is an ethical element to this that seems to be absent in many dialogues with regards to this subject that is inevitably inescapable but is rather hard to grasp because its obligation was not created by a contract.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, June 2018

How Fixing the Form 5500 Could Help Illuminate 401k Plans' Quality

Abstract: Retirement savers, regulators, advisors, and plan sponsors all want to know the same thing: Is a given 401k plan meeting participants' needs? Which participants does the plan serve the best? Further, workers need to know whether leaving money in their 401k is the best option after a job change or retirement. These are critically important questions and fixing the Form 5500, would help.

Source: Morningstar.com, June 2018

Do We Really Have a Retirement Crisis in America?

Abstract: The author writes, "Most of us are probably familiar with the children's stories of Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf. I can't help but think about these tales when I see all the doom and gloom reporting about retirement savings in the media and from the lips of some of my financial industry colleagues."

Source: Financialfinesse.com, June 2018

Why the Financial Engines/Edelman Financial Deal Could End the 401k Rollover Bonanza

Abstract: The biggest trend being portended by the Financial Engines and Edelman Financial deal is one that the industry has missed so far. And that trend is the rise of human financial advice solutions directly in the 401k channel (as Financial Engines is ostensibly going to soon offer through Edelman Financial), which could be the beginning of the end of the 401k rollover bonanza.

Source: Kitces.com, May 2018

Why the New IRS VCP Fees Are Bad for Small Business, TPAs, and Retirement Plans

Abstract: At a time when employers need more encouragement to help employees save for retirement, the trend at the IRS does the exact opposite. The increased risk that the employer takes on due to a lack of communication with the IRS, coupled with the increased expense of correcting any failure, is a move in the wrong direction.

Source: Ferenczylaw.com, January 2018

Trump Tax Bill Terrific for 401ks: Opinion

Abstract: After all the hemming and hawing, gnashing and wailing, the tax bill (apparently) is set to pass. Not only does it preserve pretty much everything good about tax-advantaged retirement accounts, it's favorable in other, admittedly roundabout, ways.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, December 2017

A Key to Strengthening Retirement Security: Return to Designing Retirement Plans Focused on Lifetime Income Strategies

Abstract: The problem with relying on a DC plan as a core or primary retirement plan is that DC plans were not designed to provide retirement security. As a result, these core DC plans are primarily focused on wealth accumulation and preservation while failing to offer workers options to help them manage their income to last a lifetime.

Source: Georgetown.edu, December 2017

ARA: Tax Reform Proposal Threatens Small Business Workers' Retirement

Abstract: Tax reform proposals working there way through Congress could have a dramatic impact on the retirement security of small businesses and millions of small business workers, according to an analysis by the American Retirement Association.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, December 2017

There Are No Mulligans in Fiduciary Law

Abstract: Author writes, "Secretary Acosta's newly created loopholes, "good faith" and "willful" are inconsistent with long-standing fiduciary law, and the burden on Secretary Acosta and the department is to do their job and truly enforce the new fiduciary rule in order to carry out the department's mission."

Source: Iainsight.wordpress.com, November 2017

Fiduciary Fallout: Increasing the Cost of Retirement

Abstract: The DOL's Fiduciary Rule is now making it harder for families to save for their future. New research shows that the DOL rule is actually increasing the cost of investing and retirement savings for Americans. This threatens to put a secure financial future beyond the reach of those that need it the most.

Source: Uschamber.com, November 2017

ERISA Excess Fee Litigation: Waiting for the Deluge

Abstract: ERISA fee litigation is moving downstream to smaller plans and that this ought to be a source of worry for small plan sponsors.

Source: Fiduciaryplangovernance.com, October 2017

The Case Against Delaying the Fiduciary Rule

Abstract: Is the Fiduciary Rule perfect? Not by a longshot. Yet, the Economic Policy Institute says the cost to retirement investors of an additional delay could reach $7.3 billion over 30 years. It is also hard to see why a rule that went through the most lengthy comment and review process in recent memory should need extensive rewriting, or why those who had so much advance notice of the effective dates should need still more time to comply.

Source: Penchecks.com, September 2017

Why the SEC Will Not and Cannot Adopt a Fiduciary Standard

Abstract: In recent appearances on Capitol Hill, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta pledged to work together on a fiduciary rule applying to stockbrokers and other financial advisers providing investment advice to the public. Both men are on record as saying any fiduciary rule must not curb the public's access to advice or products. The articles author writes, "That's all you need to know. Mr. Clayton and Mr. Acosta are clearly drinking the Kool-Aid supplied by the investment industry."

Source: Iainsight.wordpress.com, July 2017

Why Avoiding Conflicts of Interest Matters in the Investment Business

Abstract: In most professional settings, avoiding conflicts obviously matters. It's self-evident. Yet, in many quarters in brokerage and investment advice, it's not self-evident at all.

Source: Thefiduciaryinstitute.org, July 2017

Fact or Fiction in the Retirement Wellness Media

Abstract: If the large majority of people think lifetime income is important, then we need plans that promote it. Yes, those people can get lifetime income from their 401k, but if they are doing it through a commercial annuity, they have to purchase that annuity at "retail" rates. On the other hand, if they have a defined benefit plan, they can get better lifetime income from the same amount of money because they are getting the annuity at wholesale rates.

Source: Johnhlowell.blogspot.com, June 2017

Tear Down the Silos Between HSAs and 401ks

Abstract: It's time for health savings accounts and 401ks to get better acquainted. Consigning them to separate silos isn't helping employees save for retirement, which is costing employers a bundle of money.

Source: Shrm.org, June 2017

401k Accounts Need to Be Easier to Move From Job to Job

Abstract: In short, in most cases as employees move from one large employer with a low-fee 401k to another, the smartest move would be to roll over their balances from the old plan to the new plan. But given the enormous hurdles, participants are much more likely to cash out or move their balances into a high-fee IRA. Cashouts and high fees dramatically reduce balances at retirement. This problem is fixable.

Source: Marketwatch.com, June 2017

Why Arguments of a Broken Retirement System Are Misguided

Abstract: The notion of widespread retirement shortfalls obscures the fact that the US retirement system works well for the majority of households, and deflects attention from those groups actually at risk in retirement, such as those retiring early because of poor health and those with limited work histories.

Source: Ici.org, April 2017

What If the DOL Wrote the Rules of Golf?

Abstract: The U.S. and British golf associations recently announced that significant changes are being proposed to make the rules of golf easier to understand, and the game less time-consuming and more fun to play. Imagine what would happen if the DOL was put in charge of writing the Rules of Golf.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, March 2017

A Lot of Good Come Has From the Fiduciary Rule

Abstract: Despite the news that advisers may not be legally required to provide advice that benefits their clients more than themselves (in the form of commissions and kickbacks), a lot of good come from the fiduciary rule already. There are at least four major benefits.

Source: Castlerockinvesting.com, March 2017

Does Your 401k Need Robo-Advice?

Abstract: The authors of this article answer the question with "probably not." They state, "As a team of 401k and HR software veterans, we believe that there are vastly more important problems to be solved in most small and mid-sized businesses 401ks."

Source: Forusall.com, February 2017

The Retirement System Diaries: The So-Called Retirement Crisis

Abstract: By "crisis" we don't mean anything obvious like war, famine, or national penury. Instead, "retirement crisis" has come to mean simply that people aren't saving as much as they should and won't be able to retire with enough money to maintain their late-career standard of living. This is not a crisis. The real crisis is fiscal and global. Simply put, we've promised ourselves more retirement benefits than we can afford.

Source: Pentegra.com, February 2017

The Impending Fiduciary Armageddon of (Most) Mutual Fund Share Classes

Abstract: Under a fiduciary rule, there is only a legitimate need for one or two share classes at most. Thus, whether it's the DOL fiduciary rule, or one that follows within a few years from the SEC, what we'll soon see is an Armageddon that destroys most mutual fund and variable annuity share classes, as we complete the shift from selling whatever products we can get paid to sell, into advisors who actually sell advice and implement the best solutions we can at the lowest cost available.

Source: Kitces.com, February 2017

An Ironic Twist to 401k Fee Lawsuit Settlements

Abstract: It appears that companies who manage corporate retirement plans for their clients can't even properly oversee their own 401k plans for their own employees from a fiduciary standpoint. Talk about a case of the "cobbler's children having no shoes"!

Source: Greenspringwealth.com, February 2017

Is the Prudent Man Standard Good Enough?

Abstract: Any law that holds human beings to the standards of an expert in any field is a high standard, and one that can be difficult to meet even with the ablest of expert assistance. It's often said that ERISA's prudent man rule is the highest duty known to law. But is that enough?

Source: Napa-net.org, February 2017

The 401k Problem We Refuse to Solve

Abstract: For all the people arguing that some dire problem in one of these three retirement systems urgently requires that we switch to another kind at once, the major problem with all three is the same. They're badly underfunded, but it's easy to fix.

Source: Bloomberg.com, January 2017

A Proposal: One Defined Contribution Account (NIRA) to Rule Them All

Abstract: Undue complexity reigns in our statutory law and the regulations that govern defined contribution plans. Often this is due to a mishmash of legislation adopted over time, amplified by the regulations that follow. This creates unnecessary administrative costs for employers. In this article, Ron Rhoades proposes "one defined contribution retirement account to rule them all."

Source: Scholarfp.blogspot.com, January 2017

Why Fiduciary Advisors Will Profit Without a Fiduciary Rule

Abstract: If or when the U.S. Department of Labor's new fiduciary rule gets smothered in its cradle by the incoming Trump administration -- as many expect it will be -- responsible financial advisors may still end up on top. So says Bob Veres, a leading proponent of fee-only financial advice for the past 30 years.

Source: Institutionalinvestor.com, January 2017

401ks Are an Accident of History

Abstract: In this opinion piece, the author notes that "401ks were never intended to replace pensions, so it should be no surprise that they aren’t up to the task. This has been pointed out before, but it's nice to be reminded that even the people who came up with the 401k concept now 'lament the revolution they started.'"

Source: Epi.org, January 2017

Unintended Results? Conflicts of Interest and the 401k Fiduciary Rule

Abstract: It is important for participants to have the opportunity to work with advisors, planners, or other financial professionals who can help determine that course of action that makes the most sense. Unfortunately, the new fiduciary rule may limit participants’ access to professional financial advice and that could affect retirement outcomes in unexpected ways.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, December 2016

A Financial Services Regulation Wish List for the Trump Administration

Abstract: Ron A. Rhoades, J.D., CFP(R), is an Asst. Professor of Finance at Western Kentucky University's Gordon Ford College of Business, where he serves as Director of its Financial Planning program. This is his five-point financial services regulation wish list for the Trump administration.

Source: Sscholarfp.blogspot.com, December 2016

Retirement Income Disclosure: No Reason for Further Delay

Abstract: How long would it take the Department of Labor to change a light bulb? Several years, judging by progress on the even simpler task of mandating standardized lifetime retirement income disclosure for defined contribution pension arrangements.

Source: Russellinvestments.com, October 2016

Using Public Policy to Create IRA Irony

Abstract: By creating a "safe harbor" that allows states to mandate payroll deduction IRAs for these workers, the DOL fails to provide the protections afforded by ERISA to participants in these State-sponsored IRA plans. The irony is patent: IRAs are important enough to be caught within the ambit of ERISA's fiduciary rule, but large state plans using IRAs can otherwise avoid the myriad of other ERISA protections.

Source: Benefitsbryancave.com, October 2016

Viewpoint: Are 401k Vesting Schedules in Need of an Update?

Abstract: As commendable as it is when younger workers commit to contributing up to the matching percentage or beyond, there is a risk of disenchantment that may dampen their future 401k savings habits when they are, say, a mere 20 percent vested in their matching funds upon departure. The author looks at how might matching and vesting might be revamped.

Source: Shrm.org, October 2016

The Restatement of Trusts, the Prudent Investor Rule and the DOL's New Fiduciary Rule

Abstract: Ever since the DOL announced its new fiduciary rule, much has been made of the alleged "ambiguity" of certain aspects of the rule, such as "best interests" and "reasonable compensation," with suggestions that the meaning of the rule and the full extent of one's obligations under the rule will not be clear until the courts have interpreted the rule. The author thinks "those that adopt such a position may well be exposing themselves to unnecessary potential liability exposure."

Source: Iainsight.Wordpress.com, September 2016

Longevity Annuities in Retirement Plans - Much Ado About Nothing?

Abstract: Though some commentators seem to believe that QLACs will take the world of retirement plans by storm, especially when the Department of Labor finalizes participant statement requirements for lifetime retirement income projections, the writer believes that much of an increase in QLAC usage difficult to fathom.

Source: Asppa.org, August 2016

Have 401ks "Wreaked Havoc" on Retirement Saving? Hardly

Abstract: There was never a time when most Americans had traditional pensions, and most lower-income retirees collected little or nothing from such plans. But 401ks, which are more affordable to employers and thus more widespread, mean that more lower-income Americans are likely to reach retirement with private retirement plan benefits than ever before.

Source: Forbes.com, August 2016

SSGA Chief Calls on Congress to Mandate Workplace Retirement Coverage

Abstract: Ron O'Hanley, president and chief executive officer of State Street Global Advisors, called on Congress to enact a national framework that ensures workplace coverage for all private-sector working Americans. Open letter outlines a suggested framework.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, June 2016

DOL Fiduciary Rule: What "Best Interests" Means, Impacts on Financial Services

Abstract: Ron Rhoades writes, "I believe most advisers, and eventually most firms, will conclude that either fee-offsets must be undertaken (to return the arrangement to agreed-in-advance reasonable and levelized compensation), or they will simply switch to some form of level fee arrangement (assets-under-management percentage fee, annual retainer, fixed fee for discrete advice, subscription-based fees, and hourly fees). In other words, I suspect BICE will not be used all that much."

Source: Scholarfp.blogspot.com, May 2016

Perspective on the DOL's Final Rule on Fiduciary Advice

Abstract: While details of the long and complex rule are still under review, Vanguard believes the DOL took significant steps to simplify, clarify, and streamline earlier proposed provisions.

Source: Vanguard.com, April 2016

The Future of the Small DC Market

Abstract: While the industry axiom is that changes in the DC market start with the largest plans and move down market, there may be some outside forces that will affect smaller DC plans outside of larger plan changes. With that in mind, author shares his view of what the under $3 million plan market might look like in three years.

Source: Napa-net.org, March 2016

More 401k Fraud by the Mainstream Media

Abstract: Author takes issue with a recent Washington Post story on why the 401k has not been a great solution for improving Americans' retirement security.

Source: 401kspecialistmag.com, March 2016

Has ERISA Litigation Gone Off the Rails?

Abstract: For a decade, plan sponsors and service providers have been in the crosshairs of plaintiffs’ lawyers. But the few cases have been litigated to conclusion in the courts with largely favorable results for plan sponsors and service providers. David Levine suggests something has changed and plan sponsors and service providers now face a dizzying world of contradictions.

Source: Napa-net.org, February 2016

NYC Proposes Their Own Private-Sector Retirement Plan, Making a Bad Idea Even Worse

Abstract: Reuters reported last week that "some states have already started looking at introducing plans for private sector workers, leveraging the extensive infrastructure, know-how, and cost benefits they have acquired in running plans for public employees." Author writes, "I'm not sure how many states and cities could make such a statement and keep a straight face given their miserable history in 'running plans for public employees'."

Source: Linkedin.com, February 2016

Do HR People Really Care About Their Company's Retirement Plan?

Abstract: We tend to assume that HR professionals inherently care about their DC plan, but is that really true? And if not true, how do we engage HR and benefits professionals in their retirement plan?

Source: Napa-net.org, February 2016

Why Are We Third-World America When It Comes to Retirement?

Abstract: Author suggests that contrary to her assertions, Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Raskin's recent post on President Obama's plan to provide new retirement savings at work isn't going to create "inclusive prosperity."

Source: Huffingtonpost.com, February 2016

DOL Proposal on State-Run Retirement Programs Promotes Confusing Patchwork of Laws

Abstract: The DOL proposal designed to help states create retirement plans for private-sector workers would spur a confusing, state-by-state patchwork of savings programs that could lack the strict federal protections mandated for private employers' retirement plans, the Investment Company Institute said in a newly filed comment letter to DOL.

Source: Ici.org, January 2016

DC Plan Industry Could Use Some Balance

Abstract: There is always a strong push and pull moving the industry in one direction or another, observes Josh Cohen, a 20-plus year industry veteran currently running DC business for Russell Investments.

Source: Plansponsor.com, January 2016

No Retirement Crisis? Workers May Know Better

Abstract: One persistent feature of the conservative attack on Social Security, and especially on the emerging campaign to increase benefits, is the notion that the typical American will do just fine in retirement just as it is. This opinion piece looks at the evidence and its implications.

Source: Latimes.com, January 2016

TDF Investors Are Not Rotisserie Ovens

Abstract: John Croke, senior product manager, Vanguard Portfolio Review Department, shares his thoughts on a common misperception about target-date fund investors and shares the results of a survey that offers valuable insights.

Source: Vanguardinstitutionalblog.com, January 2016

The Retirement Racket: Our View

Abstract: USA TODAY's Editorial Board weights in on the DOLs proposed fiduciary rule with this opinion piece.

Source: Usatoday.com, December 2015

Reacting to Our Failure to Effect Sound Retirement Policy

Abstract: ERISA was a wonderfully crafted and meaningful law when it passed more than forty years ago. Today, it still provides, in no small measure, the intended benefits and protections that were expected in 1974. But times change and so has the retirement system.

Source: Benefitsbryancave.com, December 2015

It's Time to Promote Retirement Savings

Abstract: Author writes, "I read several articles recently about MyRA and State sponsored programs written by retirement industry professionals and organizations where their words seemed to take on a cynical tone instead of one of encouragement to the reader to look further into the programs. My belief is that their words can discourage Advisors and others to explore, understand and bring information to all individuals and employers to promote retirement savings."

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, December 2015

DOL's Fiduciary Exemption Is Not a Workable Option for Advisers

Abstract: Despite months of media attention and frequent discussion within our industry, many financial advisers are only beginning to grasp the implications of the Labor Department's effort to expand its definition of fiduciary under ERISA.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), December 2015

State-Sponsored Private Employee Retirement Plans First Step Towards Nationalized Retirement?

Abstract: According to the author, "the movement towards what amounts to the first step towards nationalizing America's retirement system is based on a well-publicized series of talking points repeated echoed, very often without rebuttal or counter examples, through various media outlets over the past several years."

Source: Fiduciarynews.com, December 2015

Politics and Investment Options Don't Mix

Abstract: Author writes, "In the midst of rightly placed concerns over proposed new Department of Labor fiduciary rules for brokers, the DOL has also issued a new interpretive bulletin designed to politicize investment choices."

Source: Ncpa.org, November 2015

Whose Responsibility is Socially Responsible Investing?

Abstract: Author writes, "There are readily understood standards for selecting and continuing to monitor an investment for its financial suitability. Picking investments that are compatible with a participant's conscience is another matter altogether."

Source: Erisanews.blogspot.com, November 2015

State-Based Retirement Programs Pose Hazards for Employers, Workers

Abstract: ICI President and CEO Paul Schott Stevens issued this statement in response to proposed regulations issued by the Department of Labor governing state-based retirement programs.

Source: Ici.org, November 2015

What Vanguard's New Report Does Not Say About 401k Plans

Abstract: Vanguard has released a short paper, "Women versus men in DC plans." Author writes, "The study confirmed some prior beliefs, and learned a couple of new things along the way. But I found the story that Vanguard chose not to tell to be more compelling. Three of the article's ancillary figures were striking."

Source: Morningstar.com, November 2015

Twelve Predictions About What the DOL's Fiduciary Rule Will Look Like When Implemented

Abstract: Advisers should not be distracted by all of the noise. Despite the daily drumbeat of industry-inspired opposition, a review of the political and regulatory landscape leads to the conclusion that the DOL fiduciary rule will survive largely intact. Author offers 12 predictions about the rule that will come to pass.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), November 2015

Four Ways the Labor Department Is About to Rock Our World

Abstract: Joe Duran writes, "Every once in a while the government passes a regulation that completely alters the landscape. The new standards proposed by the Labor Department for ERISA participants and their advisers will have the biggest impact since the deregulation of the securities industry a few decades ago. That shift created independent brokerage firms, independent advisers and the custodians and platforms to serve them. This bill will change all of our lives."

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), October 2015

Proposed DOL Fiduciary Regulation May Lead to Unintended Roadblocks for 403(b)s

Abstract: The DOL has traditionally been very supportive of 403(b) modernization. In fact, they've encouraged it. Author writes, "That's why it is particularly curious that the DOL's proposed fiduciary regulation seem to introduce prohibitions that will likely prevent future modernization."

Source: Principal.com, September 2015

Are You Running Your 401k Plan on Faulty Facts?

Abstract: Many people believe or want to believe that most 401k plans are being run by highly sophisticated and well-trained individuals. So plan fiduciaries leave it up to the service providers to run the show. Article discusses this issue and why it could be based on faulty facts.

Source: 401kadvisor.us, September 2015

Fiduciary Rule: DOL Counterpunches With New Analyses on Cost of Advice

Abstract: The DOL is acutely aware of the series of reverses suffered by the SEC in recent years over economic analyses that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found flawed and doesn't want to make the same mistake. The most recent analysis by the DOL came out recently.

Source: fi360.com, September 2015

Defining Fiduciary: A Closer Look at the Labor Department's Conflict of Interest Proposals

Abstract: Author writes, "While the Department of Labor's broad efforts to protect investors are admirable, the complexities of its fiduciary proposal will likely make new regulations challenging for retirement investors and advisors alike."

Source: Mtrustcompany.com, August 2015

Fiduciary Rule "Going to Change the Game"

Abstract: Calling it a "game changer," NTSA Executive Director Chris DeGrassi and American Retirement Association CEO Brian Graff offered their takes on the Department of Labor's proposed fiduciary rule.

Source: Ntsa-net.org, August 2015

Long Live the 401k

Abstract: It is pretty easy to focus on what is wrong with our defined contribution retirement system. But, even though they're not perfect, defined contribution plans, including 401ks, have made some great strides.

Source: Morningstar.com, August 2015

Disclosure: The Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma

Abstract: Author writes, "The Fiduciary Wars now raging at full pitch in Washington, D.C...are, at base, about the Golden Goose of IRA money. The overriding issue the folks in D.C. are grappling with is how to bring business models that are rife with inherent conflicts of interest into accord with a best interest/sole interest fiduciary standard."

Source: Morningstar.com, August 2015

Will Trial Lawyers be the Sole Beneficiary of a Watered-Down Fiduciary Rule?

Abstract: The law firm of Schlichter, Bogard & Denton has had a very good couple of weeks. After winning two high profile 401k fee lawsuits, courts have approved the payment of more than $31.9 million in legal fees. These settlement fees got the author thinking about the DOL's proposed fiduciary rule. Would the proposal, if implemented, give trial lawyers more fodder for excessive 401k fee lawsuits? Author thinks it would.

Source: Employeefiduciary.com, July 2015

401k Plans and the Fiduciary Standard

Abstract: Employers are often placed in a position of trust with respect to their company's 401k plan. Unfortunately, until recently the responsibilities associated with that position have not been fully understood. That is about to change.

Source: Brightscope.com, July 2015

The Mutual Fund Marketplace Is Broken. Time to Fix It

Abstract: According to this article, Wall Street and Washington have it wrong. The most important debate today isn't whether financial professionals should adopt the suitability standard or the fiduciary standard. The more flagrant issue to address is the mind-boggling array of share classes that exist only to hide fees paid by mutual funds to brokers in exchange for feeding them business.

Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), June 2015

Why "Tibble" Means...Nothing

Abstract: As the dust begins to settle on the fallout of the Supreme Court's unanimous Tibble v. Edison, one thing has become apparent -- when it comes to a plan sponsor's fiduciary duty, nothing has really changed. It's just business as usual for those who have been paying attention to their fiduciary duty all along.

Source: Benefitspro.com, May 2015

Is Conflict-Free Investment Advice More Expensive Than Conflicted Advice?

Abstract: Critics of the DOL's proposed fiduciary rule argue that the rule will make investment advice too costly for many 401k plans. If the critics are right, this issue would be a compelling reason to scuttle the rule. But fiduciaries already complying with underlying standards compare favorably with industry averages for non-fiduciaries. Rule changes will allow more low-cost competition to flourish.

Source: Employeefiduciary.com, May 2015

DC Plans Are Institutional Programs -- Start Treating Them That Way

Abstract: Since many workers look to DC plan sponsors to invest for them, Russell's Josh Cohen argues that sponsors should consider adopting defined benefit (DB) strategies, including asset class diversification, a smart mix of active and passive, and open architecture, multi-manager investing. He believes this improves the odds of positive outcomes rather than just achieving investment simplicity.

Source: Russell.com, May 2015

Five Ways the DOL Could Improve Its Fiduciary Proposal

Abstract: Objective observers should conclude that it is too early to tell exactly how this complicated fiduciary proposal will affect the advice market. But it is, in fact, a proposal, not a final rule, and public comments may bring about some needed clarifications and changes. Here is the author's list of five steps the DOL could take to improve the proposal.

Source: Pensionsbenefitslaw.com, April 2015

How to Improve 401k Participant Fee Disclosure

Abstract: Chris Carosa writes, "Like an ornery in-law who's overstayed his welcome, 401k participant fee disclosure isn't going away anytime soon. It's become the booby prize for those who believe sunlight heals all, a veritable case study for all that is wrong with disclosure."

Source: Fiduciarynews.com, April 2015

Top Ten Reasons Why 401k Participant Fee Disclosure Hurts Employees' Retirement Prospects

Abstract: After seeing the unanticipated side effects of 401k participant fee disclosure, professionals are increasingly having their doubts. Author suggests ten reasons why 401k participant fee disclosure hurts employee's retirement prospects.

Source: Fiduciarynews.com, April 2015

Why Isn't 401k Fee Disclosure Working?

Abstract: It's been more than two years now since the DOL required 401k plan fees to be disclosed in participant statements. Yet, at least one study says one in five employees still think they get their 401k for free. Author explores why fee disclosure may not be working.

Source: Fiduciarynews.com, April 2015

There's $27 Trillion in the Retirement Savings System: Don't Expect Legislators to Leave It Alone

Abstract: Federal budgetary considerations, a growing focus on coverage, questions of efficiency, and several other pressure points are leading to a growing likelihood of change in the retirement system. A number of proposals are circulating at the Federal and the States level. A lot is in play: a system that has grown to $27 trillion cannot expect to avoid legislative attention.

Source: Russell.com, March 2015

Obama Starts Addressing the Retirement Crisis by Getting Wall Street Out of Our Wallets

Abstract: Author writes, "President Obama should be commended for taking on the brokerage industry for ripping off multitudes of 401k participants. Last month he announced support for a Labor Department proposed regulation that would subject those advising 401k participants to a fiduciary standard."

Source: Huffingtonpost.com, March 2015

Should Low-Cost Funds Be Mandated in 401k's?

Abstract: Author doesn't believe in forcing DC plans to use low-cost mutual funds, but does think it would be great to mandate their availability in employer-sponsored plans.

Source: Wsj.com, March 2015

Why I Disagree With Don Trone

Abstract: Ron Rhoades writes, "While I appreciate Don Trone's work in the fiduciary movement, his recent opinion in RIABiz, headlined Why Obama and the DOL are all wet when it comes to the proposed fiduciary rule, is ill-informed in part and premature in part."

Source: Riabiz.com, February 2015

The Two Faces of a Fiduciary Standard: Positive and Punitive

Abstract: Don Trone writes, "As I considered the President's remarks, it occurred to me that there are two faces to a fiduciary standard -- Positive and Punitive -- and it's critical that the industry be able to distinguish between the two." Read his take here.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, February 2015

RadioShack Workers Will Lose Their Jobs and Their Retirement

Abstract: RadioShack workers won't be just losing their jobs as a result of the company's bankruptcy filing, but a big chunk of their retirement savings as well. Author points out the danger around owning to much company stock in your 401k retirement account.

Source: 401khelpcenter.com, February 2015

DOL Primed to Expand 401k Oversight Through Tibble v. Edison

Abstract: In this commentary, author write, "The Obama administration is geared up to leave a lasting impression upon employee benefit packages. Just weeks after the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate to provide specific health care coverage or face penalties took effect, the administration is now in position to make its mark on employee retirement accounts."

Source: Benefitnews.com, February 2015

The Impact of Assumptions on the Impact of Leakage

Abstract: Nevin Adams questions the assumptions in a recent Center for Retirement Research at Boston College paper entitled "The Impact of Leakages on 401k/IRA Assets." He notes, "As for the so-called impact of leakages? It might more accurately be described as the impact of assumptions."

Source: Napa-net.org, February 2015

401k Loans: A Temporary Band-Aid?

Abstract: Study data implies that the high rate of 401k plan loan defaults could be for reasons of low financial literacy, impatience, or inattention. Many employees were surprised by the effect of an unanticipated job change on an outstanding 401k plan loan. Author suggests we need more and better financial education in the workplace.

Source: Retirementplanblog.com, February 2015

Why Brokers Should Be Bound to a Fiduciary Duty

Abstract: It would be highly controversial for Obama to impose the higher legal standard, called a fiduciary duty, on brokers. Wall Street will hate the requirement that brokers act solely in a client's interest or risk getting sued, and will probably ask Congress to overturn it.

Source: Benefitspro.com, January 2015

White-Labeling Investment Funds Is a Bad Idea

Abstract: Recently, many plan sponsors were forced to make a decision about keeping the PIMCO Total Return Fund in their line-up that many participants feel is the anchor to their 401k plan investment strategy. Observers have used this situation to outline the benefits of white-labeling 401k plan investment funds. But does white-labeling makes sense?

Source: Lawtonrpc.com, January 2015

Can a Fiduciary Duty for Investment Advisers Co-Exist With Commissions?

Abstract: Legislative and regulatory consultant Duane Thompson writes, "Given the premise that a fee arrangement is inextricably bound with the fiduciary standard, it would seem logical to assume that a salesperson working on commission cannot be a fiduciary. However -- spoiler alert -- you would be wrong. That is not to say that working on a commission basis and serving the client's best interest is an easy thing to do -- it's just far more difficult, at least in legal terms."

Source: Kitces.com, January 2015

Plain Advice to Retirement Plan Sponsors

Abstract: The problem with advice given to plan sponsors is that it's often self-serving by the plan providers who want to maintain or get the business from plan sponsors. ERISA attorney Ary Rosenbaum has six pieces of "plain" advice to retirement plan sponsors.

Source: Jdsupra.com, January 2015

MEP Reform: Is it Necessary? A Rebuke

Abstract: Author takes issue with a recent article that claims the promotion of MEP's is "a conspiracy of Wall Street to hoist unnecessary and expensive financial products on small plans, as a way to further promote mutual fund interests."

Source: Businessofbenefits.com, December 2014

Multiple Employer Plans Are a Marketing Play, Not a Way to Cut Costs

Abstract: Author writes, "The idea that small employers cannot provide low-cost plans to their employees is a myth perpetuated by vested interests in the financial services industry. MEPs are a solution to a problem that does not exist, and they bring other potential risks to small employers."

Source: Employeefiduciary.com, December 2014

Are Annuities a Good Fit for Target-Date Funds?

Abstract: New regulatory guidance allowing plan sponsors to include annuities in QDIA-ready target-date funds is a watershed moment for the retirement industry. But cost and complexity may warrant a look at other reliable income options, writes Glenn Dial.

Source: Allianzgi.com, December 2014

401k Brokerage Windows Are All About the "Nudge"

Abstract: As the 401k plan has moved from being seen as a supplementary savings vehicle to taking on the role of primary retirement plan for most private sector workers, the way that plans are structured has evolved. It's probably the most widespread application of the principles of "choice architecture," which were described in Cass Sunstein's and Richard Thaler's influential book "Nudge."

Source: Russell.com, November 2014

Two Different Business Models, Two Different Outcomes for Investors

Abstract: The motivations under the non-fiduciary and fiduciary business models are vastly different, which results in the recommendation of quite different financial products for clients, writes Scott Simon, Prudent Investor Advisors, in this piece.

Source: Morningstar.com, November 2014

Edison International Case Highlights a Needed Reform: Share Class Restrictions in 401k Plans

Abstract: The author suggests that, although the case is interesting, a more fundamental issue that needs to be addressed. "The use of multiple share classes for mutual funds in 401k plans is confusing the heck out of just about every small business retirement plan sponsor in America."

Source: Employeefiduciary.com, October 2014

Interview: Jerry Schlichter Reveals Three Ways 401k Plan Sponsors Can Avoid a Fiduciary Breach

Abstract: Jerry Schlichter has made a name for himself and his firm as lead attorney on numerous cases on behalf of employees and retirees involving claims of excessive fees and fiduciary breaches in large 401k plans. Here, he talks about how plan sponsors might reduce their fiduciary liability while helping retirement savers have the best chance to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Source: Fiduciarynews.com, October 2014

How Bundled Services in Retirement Plans Are Like Fast Food Value Meals

Abstract: Author writes, "Very few plans take advantage of everything they pay for when it comes to bundled services. As a plan fiduciary, you should be asking your plan's vendors to break out its fees for each desired and necessary service, so you can then make a determination of reasonableness."

Source: Pension-consultants.com, September 2014

Sorry, ERISA Is Hardly a Failure

Abstract: Not everyone has a 401k at work, but that is irrelevant. ERISA safeguards the retirement plans that are in place for workers. Author therefore writes, "I'm seeing all of these 40th anniversary stories about ERISA and how the system has failed Americans, and it's burning me up."

Source: Workforce.com, September 2014

Redefining 'Choice' in Retirement Plans

Abstract: Choice in the context of a retirement plan means something quite different to providers that aren't fiduciaries to a plan than to fiduciary plan providers. Non-fiduciary plan providers care little about what any given participant invests in, because they just want to sell product. Which is why they give plan participants lots of 'choices.' Defining choice in this way, however, means that plan participants have a much greater risk of investing in portfolios that are sub-optimal in diversification.

Source: Morningstar.com, September 2014

Unhappy 40th Birthday, ERISA: So Much for Retirement Security

Abstract: The enactment of ERISA in 1974 was inspired by the 1963 collapse of the Studebaker Corporation, whose pension was so poorly funded that even workers with 10 years of service got a tiny pension and about a third of the workers got nothing. The bill was sponsored by the late Senator Jake Javits, who saw it as just one step towards a more satisfactory private retirement system. Author writes, "Let's make sure Senator Javits' efforts weren't in vain. We need to put pressure on Congress to move on [pension reform]."

Source: Huffingtonpost.com, August 2014

The Power of The "All-In" 401k Fee

Abstract: Under an all-in fee approach, all administrative, recordkeeping and investment expenses are summed into a single, total amount. This approach "normalizes" the numerous fee arrangements used by 401k service providers, including compensation paid to providers from plan investments, making it easier for the sponsor to compare fees provider by provider. It does matter if fees are paid directly by an employer or deducted from participant accounts or paid indirectly from revenue sharing or wrap fees. Regardless of the compensation's origin, it should be included in the all-in fee total.

Source: Employeefiduciary.com, August 2014

401k Plans Work in a Balanced Approach to Retirement Security

Abstract: Author writes, "[T]aken as part of a broader retirement system, 401ks work for working Americans. Retirees do face legitimate risks -- but the decline of private-sector defined benefit plans and the rise of defined contribution plans, such as 401k plans, isn't one of them. This shift isn't unlikely to reduce retirement preparedness."

Source: Ici.org, August 2014

Interview With CFDD's Phil Chiricotti (Part 2)

Abstract: According to Phil Chiricotti, "industry forces fighting coverage solutions like MEPs and outsourced 3(16) services along with the fiduciary standard are providing the government and DC plan critics with the ammo to launch their own solutions, undermine the industry, and eventually take over the private system."

Source: Fiduciarynews.com, August 2014

Interview With CFDD's Phil Chiricotti (Part 1)

Abstract: Chris Carosa writes of this interview," Phil Chiricotti's blunt no-holds-barred style makes him a perfectly delicious interview. His incendiary commentary is so provocative we considered whether it would be too hot for our readers. But, then again, our readers are old enough to play with fire, so we decided to give Phil the keys to the typewriter and have him do what his may."

Source: Fiduciarynews.com, August 2014

Prune Those 401k Plan Investment Lineups

Abstract: Studies have shown that too many funds on a plan's investment lineup actually lowers the rate at which participants defer their salary in a 401k plan. Why? Too many funds, especially in one asset class have the ability to confuse and overwhelm plan participants and overwhelmed plan participants are less likely to defer than those that aren't.

Source: Jdsupra.com, August 2014

Can Dabblers Exist in the DC Market?

Abstract: Can dabblers survive in today's complicated DC world? While many experts think that advisors must specialize to do well in the 401k and related retirement plan markets, there's a lot of evidence that many advisors with plans under management do not specialize, nor do they intend to.

Source: Napa-net.org, August 2014

The 401k Retirement Complex: Retooling Americans' Nest Egg

Abstract: American workers need their employers to provide 401k plans that can help meet their retirement goals. They need their employers to help educate them to make good investment choices. Service providers also are vital to a well-functioning system. But Jerry Schlichter suggests that the 401k retirement complex also needs to retool itself so that it works primarily in the best interests of American savers. According to Schlichter, that is the real retirement crisis we face.

Source: Investmentnews.com (free registration may be required), August 2014

To DB or Not to DB . . . That Is the Target-Date Question

Abstract: Should target-date funds be more like DB pension plans? The argument for the DB-ization of TDFs is a poor one according to the author, when DC sponsors should consider risks, transparency, and other factors.

Source: Vanguardinstitutionalblog.com, August 2014

Unconventional Wisdom on Retirement Preparedness

Abstract: How well are Americans planning and saving for retirement? This is an important question to answer, but also vexingly difficult. Researchers have come to different conclusions. Much of the academic research and ICI's own analysis of the data indicate that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most Americans are properly preparing for retirement.

Source: Ici.org, August 2014

Letter to RMS About Dispelling the 3(16) Myth

Abstract: The majority of plans will be using outsourced 3(16) services within a decade. Service providers that don't offer or provide due diligence on these services will lose business. MEPs and aggregated solutions are the easiest way to access 3(16) services today.

Source: Linkedin.com, July 2014

Revenue Sharing is Becoming the 401k Leisure Suit

Abstract: Ary Rosenbaum writes, "Leisure suits were once in style and while people claim style is cyclical, leisure suits never made a comeback. Revenue sharing is becomes a lot like a leisure suit, it's not going to come back in style and most plan sponsors and their plan providers are going to touch it with a 10 foot pole."

Source: Jdsupra.com, July 2014

Retirement Education is Not the Answer to the Retirement Crisis

Abstract: The evidence is clear: employers need to provide their employees with a way to save for retirement that requires little effort on their part. They need an automated retirement program that ensures they are saving the right amount for retirement, with automatic contribution adjustments made as market fluctuations dictate.

Source: Xerox.com, July 2014

All Passive DC Plans: Whose Interest Do They Serve?

Abstract: Author writes, "I take no issue with those who opt for passive management, if they have done thorough research and analysis on what's the best investment solution for their participants. I do have concerns with sponsors who base their decision to go passive because of a fear that higher fees for actively managed funds could expose them to potential lawsuits or put them in a fiduciary bind."

Source: Russell.com, July 2014

Plan Sponsors Should Avoid Using Their Payroll Provider as Their 401k TPA

Abstract: While it may look good on paper to hire a payroll provider as a 401k TPA, the author of this paper thinks it's actually a terrible idea and explains why in this article.

Source: Jdsupra.com, July 2014

Multiple Employer DC Plans: Safety in Numbers?

Abstract: Smaller US defined contribution plans face a host of fee difficulties simply because of the size of their plans. This has led to a growing interest in multiple employer plans as a potential cost-effective solution. But, MEPs do have an important regulatory issue.

Source: Alliancebernstein.com, July 2014

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