401(k) Borrowing Isn’t Free

Have your employees been dipping into their 401(k)s to support their financial needs? Then take a look at this article by David Sherman from Employee Benefit Adviser on why employees shouldn't dip into their 401(k)s and what employers can do to help employees support themselves financially without having to use the money saved in their 401(k)s.

When dire financial need strikes, employees often tap their retirement accounts. While there are cases in which a 401(k) withdrawal makes sense, these loans should be viewed as an absolute last resort.

There are significant downsides related to 401(k) loans such as including penalties, administration and maintenance fees as well as “leakage” from retirement accounts. This occurs when an employee takes a loan on their 401(k), cashes out entirely or leaves their job and rolls over their account to their new employer.

Borrowing from retirement plans presents hazards to the employer, as well. More employers are minimizing the ability of employees to dip into their 401(k) savings by limiting the number of loans from 66% in 2012 to 45% in 2016, according to SHRM. Despite this, the bottom line is that employees need access to low cost credit.

More than 1-in-4 participants use their 401(k) savings for non-retirement needs, according to financial education provider HelloWallet. That amounts to a startling $70 billion of retirement savings that employees are siphoning away from their future.

There are hidden costs to 401(k) loans. One of the perceived benefits of a 401(k) loan is that the borrower isn’t charged any interest. That’s a fallacy: 401(k) loans typically include interest rates that are 1 to 2 points higher than the current Prime Rate plus administrative fees. While the borrower pays this money to him or herself rather than to a bank, these “repayments” don’t take into account penalty of taking money out of a 401(k) for months or years when it might have enjoyed market gains.

The downside of the interest rate is that it makes paying back the loan more difficult and this will likely lead to 401(k) leakage. In some cases, loopholes that allow employees to raid their 401(k)s before retirement reduce the aggregate wealth in those accounts by 25%. Simply put, this translates into having the most senior and highest paid employees stay on the job because they do not have enough funds in their account to retire. From an HR administrator’s standpoint, that can increase overall costs, since employees who cannot afford to retire are drawing higher-than-average salaries. And thanks to their advanced age, they also run-up costs on the employer’s medical plan.

The financial wellness alternative

Employers should offer socially responsible alternatives to borrowing from their 401k. Not only to ensure that older workers can afford to retire and make room for younger, less-expensive hires, but to ease the financial burden for employees when emergencies do happen. This should be offered as a voluntary benefit with no risk to employers. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Rising Retirement Perils of 401(k) ‘Leakage’” Redner’s Markets made that leap offering a low-cost Kashable loan to its employees. It stopped leakage and offered employees of the online grocer much needed relief from financial stress.

Adding a financial wellness solution to the employee voluntary benefits package that provides access to responsible credit is a first step in untangling employees’ financials. For employees struggling with college loans and credit card debt, this financial-wellness benefit allows them to borrow when needed at a low rate. For the 35% of employees surveyed by PWC in 2016 that said they had trouble meeting their monthly household expenses and the 29% that said they had trouble meeting their minimum credit card charges each month, this voluntary program provides multiple benefits. For the employee, it is an opportunity to build or improve their credit score, and provide relief from financial stress. To the employer, it’s a risk-free solution to stop the leakage from retirement accounts.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Sherman D. (2017 June 5). 401(k) borrowing isn't free [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/401-k-borrowing-isnt-free?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000


Rising Health Care Costs Threatening Employees’ Financial Goals

Did you know that the rising costs of healthcare could be having a negative effect on your employees' financial goals? Check out this great read by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on how your employees' finances are being impacted by the costs of healthcare.

Employees are under financial stress — big time. In fact, 56 percent of them are stressed about their financial situation, and more than half of them say it’s taking a toll on both their ability to focus and their productivity on the job.

That’s according to the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report, which finds that not only are 53 percent of stressed employees having trouble concentrating on their work, the cost of health care is a big shadow cast over workers’ financial situations. And that’s already an issue, with 43 percent of employees owning up to spending 3 or more hours a week while at the office dealing with personal financial matters.

As more employees find themselves shelling out more from their own pockets to pay health care bills — 69 percent of workers said so in 2015, but 79 percent said so in 2016 — it’s no surprise to hear that health care costs are up 10 percent since 2015. No wonder they’re stressed; salaries certainly haven’t risen to match.

Those rising health care costs are taking a bite out of most employees’ other financial goals — among workers who have experienced increasing health care costs, 56 percent are having to save less toward other objectives.

Women in particular are abandoning more discretionary spending and debt management to cover health care costs than men, with 72 percent chucking spending on recreation or entertainment, compared with 59 percent of men; 63 percent saving less for retirement, compared with 62 percent of men; and 50 percent paying down less debt, compared with 46 percent of men.

And the more expensive health care becomes, the more employees appear to appreciate employer-provided health coverage — with workers ranking health benefits as their top employer benefit (40 percent), followed by their 401(k) plan (31 percent).

Even among employees who class themselves as optimists about their financial futures, worries about health care and its cost are weighing them down. And as might be expected, money woes weigh more on women than men, even — or perhaps especially — when it comes to health care. While 52 percent of men say that becoming seriously ill and unable to work is a major concern (even larger for men than having to work longer than they planned), 58 percent of women fear illness and subsequent absence from the workplace.

And more than half of employees say that financial stress is negatively affecting their physical health. Different generations feel the effects more, with 51 percent of boomers, 56 percent of Gen Xers and 68 percent of millennials saying money worries are literally making them sick. Employers need to be aware of this and take steps to deal with it, particularly since it translates into a toll not just on workers but on the employer’s bottom line — via higher absenteeism rates and higher health care costs.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 June 1). Rising health care costs threatening employees' financial goals [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/01/rising-health-care-costs-threatening-employees-fin


Advisers Seek Innovative Ways To Increase Retirement Savings

Are you struggling to save for your retirement? Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Adviser on what employee benefits advisers are doing to help their clients prepare for their retirement by Cort Olsen.

In a recent forum co-hosted by Retirement Clearinghouse, EBRI, Wiser and the Financial Services Roundtable, experts shared how automated retirement portability programs could be the key to increased participation in private-sector retirement plans.

Today, at least 64% of Americans say they do not have sufficient funds for retirement and less than half of private-sector workers participate in workplace retirement programs. Former U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, says these statistics could improve through better access to workplace retirement savings plans.

“So many small businesses tell [Congress], ‘Look we’d like to offer a plan, but we just can’t afford it,’” Conrad says. “We take the liability off of their shoulders, we take the administrative difficulty off their shoulders and allow a third party to administer the plans, run the plans and have the financial responsibility for the plans, which makes a big difference for employers.”

With these improved access points to savings plans, Conrad says the opportunity arises to create new retirement security plans for smaller businesses with fewer than 500 employees, enabling multiple employers — even from different industries — to band together to offer their workers low cost, well-designed options.

“Once the [savings plan] has been put in place for a period of time, we then introduce a nationwide minimum coverage standard for businesses with more than 50 employees,” Conrad says. “Any mandate is controversial, but legally if you dramatically simplify (don’t require employer match) really all they have to do is payroll deduction, and then it becomes not unreasonable for employers with 50 or more workers to offer some kind of plan.”

How to achieve auto-portability
Once plans have been made available for employers of all sizes, Jack VanDerhei, research director for the Employee Benefit Research Institute, recommends three different scenarios for auto-portability of retirement plans between employers.

1) Full auto-portability. VanDerhei considers this to be the most efficient scenario, where every participant consolidates their savings in their new employer plan every time they change jobs. The goal would be that all participants arrive at age 65 with only one account accumulated over the span of their working life.
2) Partial auto-portability. In this scenario, every participant with less than $5,000 — indexed for inflation — consolidates their savings in their new employer plan every time they change jobs. “If you have $5,000 or less in your account balance at the time you change jobs, leakage would only come from hardship withdrawals,” VanDerhei says. This means that money would only leave the account if the participant determined it necessary to take money out to pay for a necessity.
3) Baseline: status quo. In addition to hardship withdrawals, there is a participant-specific probability of cashing out and loan default leakage at the time of job transition. These participant specific leakages can be age, income, account balance and how long the participant has been with the employer.

VanDerhei says the younger the participants are to begin using full auto-portability of retirement plans, the more likely they are to get the most out of their retirement savings once they reach the age of 65.

“If you look at people who are currently between the ages of 25 and 34, under a partial portability there is a chance for accumulation to reach $659 billion and under a full portability there is a chance to reach $847 billion in accumulation,” VanDerhei says. “As you would expect, accumulation will decrease as the age increases if they choose to enter into auto-portability later in life.”

Spencer Williams, president and CEO of Retirement Clearinghouse, LLC, says although retirement portability has been codified into ERISA there are not enough mechanisms involved to encourage participants to continue to save for retirement rather than cashing out.

“We have a little more than a third of the population cashing out when they change jobs,” Williams says. “The research shows that if you fix that problem, the difficulty moving peoples’ money, we will begin the process of reducing leakage.”

Once a retirement account reaches a certain amount, Williams adds that participants will begin to take the account more seriously and have more desire to continue investing in the plan.

“We need to create an efficient and effective means by which people can have their money moved for them, and in doing that we begin to change peoples’ behavior,” Williams says. “Finally, if we increase access and coverage, along with auto-portability, all of those benefits accrue from all those new participants in the system.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olsen C. (2017 April 6). Advisers seek innovative ways to increase retirement savings [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/advisers-seek-innovative-ways-to-increase-retirement-savings


The 10 Biggest 401(k) Plan Misconceptions

Do you know everything you need to know about your 401(k)? Check out this great article from Employee Benefit News about the top 10 misconceptions people have about their 401(k)s by Robert C. Lawton.

Unfortunately for plan sponsors, 401(k) plan participants have some big misconceptions about their retirement plan.

Having worked as a 401(k) plan consultant for more than 30 years with some of the most prestigious companies in the world — including Apple, AT&T, IBM, John Deere, Northern Trust, Northwestern Mutual — I’m always surprised by the simple but significant 401(k) plan misconceptions many plan participants have. Following are the most common and noteworthy —all of which employers need to help employees address.

1. I only need to contribute up to the maximum company match

Many participants believe that their company is sending them a message on how much they should contribute. As a result, they only contribute up to the maximum matched contribution percentage. In most plans, that works out to be only 6% in employee contributions. Many studies have indicated that participants need to average at least 15% in contributions each year. To dispel this misperception, and motivate participants to contribute something closer to what they should, plan sponsors should consider stretching their matching contribution.

2. It’s OK to take a participant loan

I have had many participants tell me, “If this were a bad thing why would the company let me do it?” Account leakage via defaulted loans is one of the reasons why some participants never save enough for retirement. In addition, taking a participant loan is a horribleinvestment strategy. Plan participants should first explore taking a home equity loan, where the interest is tax deductible. Plan sponsors should consider curtailing or eliminating their loan provisions.

3. Rolling a 401(k) account into an IRA is a good idea

There are many investment advisers working hard to convince participants this is a good thing to do. However, higher fees, lack of free investment advice, use of higher-cost investment options, lack of availability of stable value and guaranteed fund investment options and many other factors make this a bad idea for most participants.

4. My 401(k) account is a good way to save for college, a first home, etc.

When 401(k) plans were first rolled out to employees decades ago, human resources staff helped persuade skeptical employees to contribute by saying the plans could be used for saving for many different things. They shouldn’t be. It is a bad idea to use a 401(k) plan to save for an initial down payment on a home or to finance a home. Similarly, a 401(k) plan is not the best place to save for a child’s education — 529 plans work much better. Try to eliminate the language in your communication materials that promotes your 401(k) plan as a place to do anything other than save for retirement.

5. I should stop making 401(k) contributions when the stock market crashes

This is a more prevalent feeling among plan participants than you might think. I have had many participants say to me, “Bob, why should I invest my money in the stock market when it is going down. I'm just going to lose money!” These are the same individuals who will be rushing into the stock market at market tops. This logic is important to unravel with participants and something plan sponsors should emphasize in their employee education sessions.

6. Actively trading my 401(k) account will help me maximize my account balance

Trying to time the market, or following newsletters or a trader's advice, is rarely a winning strategy. Consistently adhering to an asset allocation strategy that is appropriate to a participant's age and ability to bear risk is the best approach for most plan participants.

7. Indexing is always superior to active management

Although index investing ensures a low-cost portfolio, it doesn't guarantee superior performance or proper diversification. Access to commodity, real estate and international funds is often sacrificed by many pure indexing strategies. A blend of active and passive investments often proves to be the best investment strategy for plan participants.

8. Target date funds are not good investments

Most experts who say that target date funds are not good investments are not comparing them to a participant's allocations prior to investing in target date funds. Target date funds offer proper age-based diversification. Many participants, before investing in target date funds, may have invested in only one fund or a few funds that were inappropriate risk-wise for their age.

9. Money market funds are good investments

These funds have been guaranteed money losers for a number of years because they have not kept pace with inflation. Unless a participant is five years or less away from retirement or has difficulty taking on even a small amount of risk, these funds are below-average investments. As a result of the new money market fund rules, plan sponsors should offer guaranteed or stable value investment options instead.

10. I can contribute less because I will make my investments will work harder

Many participants have said to me, “Bob, I don’t have to contribute as much as others because I am going to make my investments do more of the work.” Most participants feel that the majority of their final account balance will come from earnings in their 401(k) account. However, studies have shown that the major determinant of how much participants end up with at retirement is the amount of contributions they make, not the amount of earnings. This is another misconception that plan sponsors should work hard to unwind in their employee education sessions.

Make sure you address all of these misconceptions in your next employee education sessions.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Lawton R. (2017 April 4). The 10 biggest 401(k) plan misconceptions[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/the-10-biggest-401-k-plan-misperceptions?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


Cafeteria Plans: Qualifying Events and Changing Employee Elections

Have any questions about cafeteria plans and how they work? Check out this great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about which events qualify and what changes can happen to any employee's cafeteria plan by Danielle Capilla

Cafeteria plans, or plans governed by IRS Code Section 125, allow employers to help employees pay for expenses such as health insurance with pre-tax dollars. Employees are given a choice between a taxable benefit (cash) and two or more specified pre-tax qualified benefits, for example, health insurance. Employees are given the opportunity to select the benefits they want, just like an individual standing in the cafeteria line at lunch.

Only certain benefits can be offered through a cafeteria plan:

  • Coverage under an accident or health plan (which can include traditional health insurance, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), self-insured medical reimbursement plans, dental, vision, and more);
  • Dependent care assistance benefits or DCAPs
  • Group term life insurance
  • Paid time off, which allows employees the opportunity to buy or sell paid time off days
  • 401(k) contributions
  • Adoption assistance benefits
  • Health savings accounts or HSAs under IRS Code Section 223

Some employers want to offer other benefits through a cafeteria plan, but this is prohibited. Benefits that you cannot offer through a cafeteria plan include scholarships, group term life insurance for non-employees, transportation and other fringe benefits, long-term care, and health reimbursement arrangements (unless very specific rules are met by providing one in conjunction with a high deductible health plan). Benefits that defer compensation are also prohibited under cafeteria plan rules.

Cafeteria plans as a whole are not subject to ERISA, but all or some of the underlying benefits or components under the plan can be. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has also affected aspects of cafeteria plan administration.

Employees are allowed to choose the benefits they want by making elections. Only the employee can make elections, but they can make choices that cover other individuals such as spouses or dependents. Employees must be considered eligible by the plan to make elections. Elections, with an exception for new hires, must be prospective. Cafeteria plan selections are considered irrevocable and cannot be changed during the plan year, unless a permitted change in status occurs. There is an exception for mandatory two-year elections relating to dental or vision plans that meet certain requirements.

Plans may allow participants to change elections based on the following changes in status:

  • Change in marital status
  • Change in the number of dependents
  • Change in employment status
  • A dependent satisfying or ceasing to satisfy dependent eligibility requirements
  • Change in residence
  • Commencement or termination of adoption proceedings

Plans may also allow participants to change elections based on the following changes that are not a change in status but nonetheless can trigger an election change:

  • Significant cost changes
  • Significant curtailment (or reduction) of coverage
  • Addition or improvement of benefit package option
  • Change in coverage of spouse or dependent under another employer plan
  • Loss of certain other health coverage (such as government provided coverage, such as Medicaid)
  • Changes in 401(k) contributions (employees are free to change their 401(k) contributions whenever they wish, in accordance with the administrator’s change process)
  • HIPAA special enrollment rights (contains requirements for HIPAA subject plans)
  • COBRA qualifying event
  • Judgment, decrees, or orders
  • Entitlement to Medicare or Medicaid
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave
  • Pre-tax health savings account (HSA) contributions (employees are free to change their HSA contributions whenever they wish, in accordance with the their payroll/accounting department process)
  • Reduction of hours (new under the ACA)
  • Exchange/Marketplace enrollment (new under the ACA)

Together, the change in status events and other recognized changes are considered “permitted election change events.”

Common changes that do not constitute a permitted election change event are: a provider leaving a network (unless, based on very narrow circumstances, it resulted in a significant reduction of coverage), a legal separation (unless the separation leads to a loss of eligibility under the plan), commencement of a domestic partner relationship, or a change in financial condition.

There are some events not in the regulations that could allow an individual to make a mid-year election change, such as a mistake by the employer or employee, or needing to change elections in order to pass nondiscrimination tests. To make a change due to a mistake, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the mistake has been made. For instance, an individual might accidentally sign up for family coverage when they are single with no children, or an employer might withhold $100 dollars per pay period for a flexible spending arrangement (FSA) when the individual elected to withhold $50.

Plans are permitted to make automatic payroll election increases or decreases for insignificant amounts in the middle of the plan year, so long as automatic election language is in the plan documents. An “insignificant” amount is considered one percent or less.

Plans should consider which change in status events to allow, how to track change in status requests, and the time limit to impose on employees who wish to make an election.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 February 07). Cafeteria plans: qualifying events and changing employee elections  [Web blog post]. http://blog.ubabenefits.com/cafeteria-plans-qualifying-events-and-changing-employee-elections


Only 1 in 3 employees actually understands how their 401(k) works

Do all of your employees understand how their 401(k) works? If not check out this article from HR Morning on the statistics of about 1 in 3 employees that do not understand their 401 (k) by Jared Bilski,

When it comes to common financial vehicles like 401(k) plans, term life insurance, Roth IRAs and 529 college savings plans, most workers could use some education on the finer points.  

In fact, according to a recent study by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of American, one-third or  less of employees said they had a solid understanding of the most common financial products.

Problem areas

Here is the specific breakdown from the Guardian Life study on the percentage of worker that said they have a solid understanding of various financial products:

  • 401(k)s and other workplace retirement plans (just 32% of workers said they had a solid understanding)
  • IRAs apart from Roth IRAs (27%)
  • Individual stocks and bonds (26%)
  • Mutual funds (25%)
  • Pensions (25%)
  • Roth IRAs (24%)
  • Term life insurance (23%)
  • Separately managed accounts (23%)
  • Disability insurance (23%)
  • 529 college savings plans (23%)
  • Whole life insurance (22%)
  • Business insurance, such as key person insurance or buy/sell agreements (20%)
  • Annuities (19%)
  • Universal life insurance (19%), and
  • Variable universal life insurance (18%).

Education vs. no education

One of the best ways to help workers garner a better understanding of their finances — and the financial products available to them — is through one-on-one education.

Consider this example:

The Principal Group compared the saving habits and financial acumen of workers who attended a one-on-one session the organization offered one year to those who didn’t.

What it found: Contribution rates for those who attended the session were 9% higher than those who didn’t. Also, 19% of the workers who received education opted to automatically bump up their retirement plan increases with pay increases, compared to just 2% of other employees.

Also, 92% of the employees who were enrolled in Principal’s education program agreed to take a number of positive financial steps, and 80% of those workers followed through on those steps.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 January 27). Only 1 in 3 employees actually understands how their 401(k) works [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/only-1-in-3-employees-actually-understands-how-their-401k-works/


How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing

Is financial wellness an important part of your company culture? By promoting financial wellness among your employees', employers can reap the benefits as well. Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about the some of the effects that promoting financial wellness can have. By Cort Olsen

Financial wellness has come to the forefront of employers’ wellbeing priorities. Looking back on previous years of participation in retirement savings programs such as 401(k)s, employers are not satisfied with participation, an Aon study shows.

As few as 15% of employers say they are satisfied with their workers’ current savings rate, according to a new report from Aon Hewitt. In response, employers are focused on increasing savings rates and will look to their advisers to help expand financial wellbeing programs.

Aon surveyed more than 250 U.S. employers representing nearly 9 million workers to determine their priorities and likely changes when it comes to retirement benefits. According to the report, employers plan to emphasize retirement readiness, focusing on financial wellbeing and refining automation as they aim to raise 401(k) savings rates for 2017.

Emphasizing retirement readiness
Nearly all employers, 90%, are concerned with their employees’ level of understanding about how much they need to save to achieve an adequate retirement savings. Those employers who said they were not satisfied with investment levels in past years, 87%, say they plan to take action this year to help workers reach their retirement goals.

“Employers are making retirement readiness one of the important parts of their financial wellbeing strategy by offering tools and modelers to help workers understand, realistically, how much they’re likely to need in order to retire,” says Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt. “Some of these tools take it a step further and provide education on what specific actions workers can take to help close the savings gap and can help workers understand that even small changes, such as increasing 401(k) contributions by just two percentage points, can impact their long-term savings outlook.”

Focusing on financial wellbeing
While financial wellness has been a growing trend among employers recently, 60% of employers say its importance has increased over the past two years. This year, 92% of employers are likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in a way that extends beyond retirement such as help with managing student loan debt, day-to-day budgeting and even physical and emotional wellbeing.

Currently, 58% of employers have a tool available that covers at least one aspect of financial wellness, but by the end of 2017, that percentage is expected to reach 84%, according to the Aon Hewitt report.

“Financial wellbeing programs have moved from being something that few leading-edge companies were offering to a more mainstream strategy,” Austin says. “Employers realize that offering programs that address the overall wellbeing of their workers can solve for myriad challenges that impact people’s work lives and productivity, including their physical and emotional health, financial stressors and long-term retirement savings.”

The lessons learned from automatic enrollment are being utilized to increase savings rates. In a separate Aon Hewitt report, more than half of all employees under plans with automatic enrollment default had at or above the company match threshold. Employers are also adding contribution escalation features and enrolling workers who may not have been previously enrolled in the 401(k) plan.

“Employers realize that automatic 401(k) features can be very effective when it comes to increasing participation in the plan,” Austin says. “Now they are taking an automation 2.0 approach to make it easier for workers to save more and invest better.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olsen C. (2017 January 16). How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-to-encourage-increased-investment-in-financial-wellbeing?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000


Employees putting billions more than usual in their 401(k)s

Interesting article from BenefitsPro about employee's increased input into their 401(k)s by Ben Steverman

(Bloomberg) -- Saving for retirement requires making sacrifices now so your future self can afford to stop working later. Someday. Maybe.

It’s not news that Americans aren’t saving enough. The typical baby boomer, whose generation is just starting to retire, has a median of $147,000 in all of his retirement accounts, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

And if you think that’s depressing, try this on: 1 in 3 private sector workers don’t even have a retirement plan through their job.

But the new year brings with it some good news: If people do have a 401(k) plan through their employer, there’s data showing them choosing to set aside more for their later years.

On average, workers in 2015 put 6.8 percent of their salaries into 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, according to a recent survey of more than 600 plans. That’s up from 6.2 percent in 2010, the Plan Sponsor Council of America found.

An increase in retirement savings of 0.6 percentage points might not sound like much, but it represents a 10 percent rise in the amount flowing into those plans over just five years, or billions of dollars. About $7 trillion is already invested in 401(k) and other defined contribution plans, according to the Investment Company Institute.

If Americans keep inching up their contribution rate, they could end up saving trillions of dollars more. Workers in these plans are even starting to meet the savings recommendations of retirement experts, who suggest setting aside 10 percent to 15 percent of your salary, including any employer contribution, over a career.

While workers are saving more, companies have held their financial contributions steady—at least over the past few years. Employers pitched in 4.7 percent of payroll in 2015, the same as in 2013 and 2014. Even so, it’s still more than a point above their contribution rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

One reason workers participating in these plans are probably saving more: They’re being signed up automatically—no extra paperwork required. Almost 58 percent of plans surveyed make their sign-up process automatic, requiring employees to take action only if they don’t want to save.

Automatic enrollment can make a big difference. In such plans, 89 percent of workers are making contributions, the survey finds, while 75 percent make 401(k) contributions under plans without auto-enrollment. Auto-enrolled employees save more, 7.2 percent of their salaries vs. 6.3 percent for those who weren’t auto-enrolled.

Companies are also automatically hiking worker contribution rates over time, a feature called “auto-escalation” that’s still far less common than auto-enrollment. Less than a quarter of plans auto-escalate all participants, while 16 percent boost contributions only for workers who are deemed to be not saving enough.

A key appeal of automatic 401(k) plans is that they don’t require participating workers to be investing experts. Unless employees choose otherwise, their money is automatically put in a recommended investment.

And, at more and more 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, this takes the form of a target-date fund, a diversified mix of investments chosen based on a participant’s age or years until retirement. Two-thirds of plans offer target-date funds, the survey found, double the number in 2006.

The share of workers’ assets in target-date funds is up fivefold as a result.

A final piece of good news for workers is that they’re keeping more of every dollar they earn in a 401(k) account. Fees on 401(k) plans are falling, according to a recent analysis released by BrightScope and the Investment Company Institute.

The total cost of running a 401(k) plan is down 17 percent since 2009, to 0.39 percent of plan assets in 2014. The cost of the mutual funds inside 401(k)s has dropped even faster, by 28 percent to an annual expense ratio of 0.53 percent in 2015.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Steverman B. (2017 January 5). Employees putting billions more than usual in their 401(k)s [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/05/employees-putting-billions-more-than-usual-in-thei?ref=hp-news&page_all=1


Top 7 401(k) questions employees may have

Interesting article from BenefitsPro about some of the questions your employees will ask about 401(k)s by Marlene Y. Satter

At the start of a new year, lots of folks are thinking about resolutions.

And, if they’re also thinking about saving for retirement, they may have realized they don’t know all that they should about their retirement plan—or they may simply have decided that they need to know more.

If that’s the case, they’ll have questions about their 401(k) plans.

And regardless of what kind of 401(k) education you or your plan provider may furnish, you’ll likely be hit with inquiries about various aspects of the company plan.

Here are the top 7 questions you may get from workers this year.

7. How do I manage my investments?

Employees will want to know whether there are online tools to track investments, access statements and change their portfolio holdings.

They’ll also want to know about educational resources, whether online or in group or individual sessions, so that they can do the best they can. If you don’t already offer access to a financial advisor to help them better understand what they need to do, this could be a potential plan upgrade—particularly since many people prefer interacting with a human being to relying on online tools, especially for educational purposes.

6. What kind of investments are available?

Particularly if they’re trying to educate themselves better on how to make their 401(k) investments perform at peak efficiency, employees will want to know what they’re putting their money into.

Which mutual funds does the plan use? What other options are available? Are there alternative investments in the plan? Managed accounts? Bonds? Individual stocks? Money market funds? Are there plenty of options available, so that the portfolio is sufficiently diversified?

And if they don’t like the sound of the 401(k)’s options, they might ask you about providing a Roth 401(k) instead.

5. How high are the fees—and can they be lowered?

Savvy employees will be concerned about the fees involved in the various investments in the plan. Even more savvy ones might push you to consider lower-fee investments, such as Class R6 shares rather than Class A and target-date funds, which have preset portfolios and should be cheaper.

They’ll probably also ask about the presence or absence of index funds, and question whether the plan provider engages in revenue sharing or provides institutional pricing on all funds.

4. When and how can I withdraw money from the plan?

In case of emergency—a death in the family, a serious illness or perhaps a less depressing need, such as a home purchase or the kids’ college education—employees might need to get their hands on some of their 401(k) funds. Does your plan allow that?

And if so, how? Is it a difficult process? Are only hardship loans allowed? How long does it take to get the money? Can employees continue to contribute to the plan after they take a withdrawal?

3. What’s the employer matching contribution?

Employees will want to know, if they don’t already, how much you’re going to kick in in matching funds when they start contributing to the plan.

Do you match 50 cents, for instance, per dollar up to a certain percentage of the employee’s salary? Say, 3 percent or 6 percent? Or do you do a dollar-for-dollar match up to whatever your limit is? Or perhaps you have a dollar limit rather than a percentage.

2. When am I vested?

Employees—particularly millennials, who tend to move from job to job with increasing frequency—will probably want to know how quickly they’ll be able to keep any employer contributions.

They probably already know that whatever they themselves contribute to a plan is theirs to take whenever they leave for a new job, but since vesting rules can vary widely from company to company, they’ll want to know whether employer contributions vest at 5, 10, 25 or 50 percent per year, or at 100 percent after a certain number of years.

1. What are the eligibility requirements?

New employees in particular will want to find out about this, but existing employees who perhaps hadn’t signed up in the past may also be checking on whether they work enough hours per week (for part-timers) or have been with the company long enough to start contributing.

Make sure that employees know what’s required for them to be able to participate—and if you don’t already have it, you might want to consider adding auto enrollment as a feature next time you modify the plan.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 January 03). Top 7 401(k) questions employees may have [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/03/top-7-401k-questions-employees-may-have?ref=hp-news&page_all=1


Financial wellness: Here’s what employees want, need in 2017

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by

Recent research into individuals’ financial resolutions for 2017 can tell you whether your financial wellness initiatives are giving employees what they want. It can also tell you whether to expect employees to increase their retirement contributions next year. 

Personal finance company LendEDU recently asked 1,001 Americans about their financial goals for 2017, as well as what their biggest concerns are. The results were published in LendEDU’s “Financial Resolution Survey & Report 2017,” which can help employers determine if their financial programs are on point.

Here are some of the more interesting Q&A’s from the research:

What’s your most important financial resolution in 2017?

  • Save more money — 52.85% of respondents selected this
  • Pay off debt — 35.56%
  • Spend less money — 11.59%

Takeaway for employers: Improving savings should be front and center in any financial wellness strategy.

What’s your top financial resolution?

  • Make and stick to a budget — 21.38%
  • Save for a large purchase like a down payment, household upgrade, or car, etc. — 19.28%
  • Pay down credit card debt — 18.88%
  • Place money aside for an emergency — 16.58%
  • Save for retirement — 13.69%
  • Pay down student loan debt — 7.29%
  • Save for college — 2.90%

Takeaway for employers: Employees need the most help creating a budget they can stick to.

What’s your top financial concern?

  • Unexpected expenses — 53.25%
  • Healthcare costs — 23.98%
  • Higher interest rates — 9.69%
  • The labor market — 7.79%
  • Stock market fluctuations — 5.29%

Takeaway for employers: Helping employees manage healthcare costs can be a key add-on to any financial education program.

Do you think you’re better off financially in 2017 than in 2016?

  • Yes — 78.32%
  • No — 21.68%

Takeaway for employers: Employees’ financial state of mind is on the upswing, which is good. But it could make increasing participation in wellness initiatives more challenging.

Do you make financial resolutions with your spouse or significant other?

  • Yes — 84.83%
  • No — 15.17%

Takeaway for employers: When it comes to finances, very few people go it alone, so invite spouses to be a part of your wellness offerings.

What would make you stick to a financial resolution?

  • Having a reward for reaching the goal — 37.56%
  • Segmenting a longer term goal into smaller bit sized pieces — 20.08%
  • Technology that helps you save money or monitor goals in real-time — 19.38%
  • The encouragement of family and friends — 13.99%
  • Having a consequence for not reaching the goal — 8.99%

Takeaway for employers: Incremental rewards and incentives, can help drive participation and success in 2017 financial wellness initiatives.

Do you think you’ll increase your retirement savings contributions this year?

  • Yes — 63.24%
  • No — 36.76%

Takeaway for employers: This could be a good year to really push employees to bump up retirement plan contributions.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Author (Date). Title [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/financial-wellness-heres-what-employees-want-need-in-2017/