Small Employers Lead the Way in Funding HSAs

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

The average employer contribution to an HSA is $474 for a single employee (down 3.5 percent from 2015 and 17.6 percent from five years ago) and $801 for a family (down 9.2 percent from last year and 13.7 percent from five years ago). There was a 26 percent increase in the number of individuals enrolled in HSAs, likely due to the increase in CDHP enrollment (which often have HSAs tied to them). Since 2013, there has been a 97.7 percent increase in enrollment, showing significant employer and employee interest in these plans over time.

Looking at contributions by group size, singles at companies with 200 to 499 employees receive the lowest HSA contributions ($409). Singles at some of the smallest companies (25 to 49 employees) receive the most generous contributions ($543), on average.

Like their single counterparts, families get more generous contributions from small employers. The average family HSA contribution in groups with 25 to 49 employees was $908 (though, in general, small employer contributions have been declining over time).

Last year, some of the smallest companies (10 to 24 employees) had the highest HSA enrollment (16.3 percent). However, rapid enrollment increases among large employers in recent years now places the largest companies (1,000+ employees) as HSA enrollment leaders with 19.1 percent enrolled.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olson B. (2017 June 15). Small employers lead the way in funding HSAs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/small-employers-lead-the-way-in-funding-hsas http://blog.ubabenefits.com/small-employers-lead-the-way-in-funding-hsas


4 Ways Employers can Prepare for Healthcare Changes

With all the proposed changes coming to healthcare. Take a look at this article by Mark Johnson from Employee Benefit News and see what you can do to prepare yourself and your employees for that call the changes coming to healthcare.

The new healthcare bill, revealed by U.S. Senate Republicans Thursday, could bring significant changes to organizations and their employees. Granted, there’s a long way to go before any Obamacare replacement legislation is signed. But health insurance is a complex component of running any business, and it’s important that employers start preparing for what might come.

Here are four actions items employers should be addressing now.

1. Create a roadmap. A compliance calendar is a helpful tool in identifying major deadlines. Employers are legally obligated to share health insurance and benefits updates with their employees by certain dates. Employees must be given reasonable notice — typically 30 days prior — of a major change in policy. There will likely be a set date for compliance and specific instructions around notice requirements that accompany the new legislation.

One step to compliance is adhering to benefit notice requirements. Benefit notices (i.e., HIPAA, COBRA, Summary Plan Descriptions, Special Health Care Notices, Health Care Reform, Form 5500 and others) vary by the size of the organization. Other steps can be more involved, such as required changes to plan design (e.g., copays, deductibles and coinsurance), types of services covered and annual and lifetime maximums, among others. Create a compliance calendar that reflects old and new healthcare benefit requirements so you can stay on track.

2. Rally the troops. Managing healthcare compliance spans several departments. Assemble key external and internal stakeholders by department, including HR, finance, payroll and IT.

Update the team on potential changes as healthcare legislation makes its way through Congress so they can prepare and be ready to execute should a new bill be signed. HR is responsible for communicating changes to employees and providing them with information on their plan and benefits. Finance needs to evaluate how changes in the plan will affect the company’s bottom line. Payroll must be aware of how much of an employee’s check to allocate to health insurance each month. In addition, payroll and Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) are used to track and monitor changes in employee population, which helps employers determine benefit notice and compliance requirements. All departments need to be informed of the modified health insurance plan as soon as possible and on the same page.

3. Get connected. It’s essential to verify information as it’s released, via newsletters, seminars, healthcare carriers, payroll vendors and consultants. These resources can help employers navigate the evolving healthcare landscape. Knowledge of changes will empower an organization to handle them effectively.

4. Evaluate partnerships. There’s no better time for employers to examine their current partners, from an insurance consultant or broker to the accounting firm and legal counsel. An employer’s insurance consultant should be a trusted adviser in working on budgeting and benchmarking the company plan, administering benefits, evaluating plan performance and reporting outcomes. Finding an insurance solution that meets a company’s business goals, as well as its employee’s needs, can be accomplished with a knowledgeable, experienced insurance partner.

Staying ahead of healthcare changes is essential for organizations to have a smooth transition to an updated healthcare plan. Strategic planning, communication among departments and establishing the right partnerships are key. Employers must be proactive in addressing healthcare changes so they are ready when the time comes.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Johnson M. (2017 June 23). 4 ways employers can prepare for healthcare changes [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/5-ways-employers-can-prepare-for-healthcare-changes


How to Build Financial Wellness into a More Holistic Wellness Program

Are you looking for new ways to help your employees increase their financial wellness? Check out this great article by Michelle Clark from SHRM highlighting what HR can do to help employees engage with the company's benefits program to improve their financial situation.

The majority of HR professionals give their employees a financial health rating of “fair” and nearly 20 percent report that their employees are “not at all” financially literate according to a national SHRM survey.

That’s an issue. Because when employees are stressed about money they don’t turn their worry off at work – and the price is paid in lost productivity.

You can help fix the problem. Everyone wins when traditional employee wellness programs are recast in a more holistic, well-rounded way – with financial wellness an important cornerstone.

There is no cookie cutter solution. But if you build a customized program that’s responsive to specific requirements and comfort levels of different employee groups, it can be rewarding and valuable.

First, review your employee demographics to get an idea of what their financial situations may look like. For example, it’s understood that the majority of today’s workforce is comprised of three age groups: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each has different financial stressors and preferences on how they prefer to receive assistance:

  • Boomers on the verge of retirement are wondering if they can afford it or even want to retire. If they need to work, they are worried they’ll have a hard time finding a job.
  • Generation X can barely think about retirement planning when they’re trying to cover the mortgage, raise kids, save money for college and shoulder responsibilities for aging parents.
  • Millennials are burdened by student loan debt while trying to stretch their paychecks so they can live on their own instead of with their parents.

There also are vastly different ways each accesses support. Boomers may be okay with online resources and one-on-one coaching. But Millennials and Gen Xers may want more high-tech resources such as websites offering basic money courses and worksheets to help with budgets, housing or investment planning.

Once a solution has been established, the next step is getting people to partake. You don’t want to target employees, since privacy is a major consideration. Offering options allows employees to engage privately on their own terms. That’s why the online solutions are ideal for individual financial issues, offered in tandem with more on-site sessions on general concerns. And there’s always the potential of offering one-on-one financial counseling or financial wellness coaches to round out your program.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Clark M. (2017 June 16). How to build financial wellness into a more holistic wellness program [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/shrm-blog-june-2017-how-to-build-financial-wellness-into-a-more-holistic-we


Employees Aren't so Sure About Their Benefits Options

Are your employees having a hard time understanding all the benefits that are offered to them? Take a look at this article by Katie Kuehner-Hebert from Benefits Pro and find out the major questions that most employees seem to have about their employee benefits.

Employers have a conundrum: One-fifth of workers regret the health care benefit choices they make, but the same percentage of workers also concede they ignore any written educational materials about benefits their employers provided.

To make matters worse, according to Jellyvision’s 2017 ALEX Benefits Communication Survey, two-thirds don’t like in-person consultations -- not even if it’s within a group or one-on-one with a benefits expert.

So what’s an employer to do?

“The challenge is most people don’t want  ‘education’ on these topics,” says Jellyvision chief executive Amanda Lannert. “No one wakes up with a burning desire to learn about HDHPs. In our experience, people respond best to plain-English communication that feels like they’re talking about benefits with a friend -- if benefits were a thing friends ever talked about.”

The good news is 82 percent of the 2,043 U.S. adults surveyed by Harris Poll say they’re satisfied with their employer’s benefits communication, and 86 percent feel their company has provided them with enough information to make informed decisions. A majority (69 percent) say they personally have spent either “a great deal” or “a lot” of time learning about their company’s benefits offerings.

However, while 89 percent say they generally understand their benefit options, more than a few aren’t too sure about all of the details.

For example, only 59 percent are correct in identifying the full cost of their health care plan, including their contribution and their employer’s contribution, and half (50 percent) say they are not knowledgeable about high-deductible health plans. More than half (54 percent) are unsure whether they can make changes to their insurance during qualified life events, and 43 percent are unclear on where to direct their health insurance questions.

“We think the number one biggest take-away of this entire survey is… employees want your help when choosing their health plans,” the authors write.

Indeed, more than half (55 percent) of all employees whose company offers health insurance say they would like help from their employer when choosing a health plan. Roughly half (49 percent) say the decision-making process is very stressful, and 36 percent feel the open enrollment process at their company is extremely confusing.

Jellyvision’s survey asked respondents to react to a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, particularly as it relates to employer-provided health insurance plans, and found a majority (61 percent) don’t think a repeal would affect them personally.

When asked about keeping certain provisions of the ACA, 80 percent say it’s “absolutely essential” or “very important” to keep coverage of preexisting conditions, 78 percent say that about free preventative care, and 67 percent say that about coverage of adult children up to age 26.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kuehner-Hebert K. (2017 June 22). Employees aren't so sure about their benefits options [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/22/employees-arent-so-sure-about-their-benefits-optio


P&C Profile: July 2017

New Study Demonstrates the Dangers of Talking While Driving

It’s commonly known that smartphones, entertainment systems and other electronics can be a dangerous distraction to drivers. However, a new study from the University of Iowa found that simple conversations can also cause unsafe driving conditions.

The study used eye tracking equipment to analyze where subjects were looking and how long it took them to focus on a new object. Some subjects were also asked true or false questions at the same time in order to simulate a simple conversation. Data collected from the study found that subjects who answered questions took twice as long to focus on a new object than those who were asked no questions.

Although engaging in conversation seems simple, it involves a number of complex tasks that the brain must handle simultaneously. Even if the topic of conversation is straightforward, the brain has to absorb information, overlay what a person already knows and prepare to a construct a reply. And, although this process is done extremely quickly, it can also slow down reaction times and lead to a dangerous accident on the road.

The best way to keep your employees safe while driving is to encourage them to eliminate or turn off all potential distractions, including their cellphones and any hands-free accessories they may use to make a call. You can also consider including language about safe driving practices in your workplace safety policies.

Preventing Workplace Violence

As reports of shootings and other violent incidents become more common, workplace violence is a topic than no business can ignore. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace homicides rose 2 percent in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. Additionally, the number of workplace shootings increased by 15 percent.

The best way to address potential acts of violence at your business is to be prepared to act before, during and after an act of violence occurs. Here are some programs you can use to ensure the safety of your employees and customers:

  • Pre-employment screenings—Background checks can help identify candidates who have violent histories.
  • Security—Security systems can ensure that only employees have access to certain areas.
  • Alternative dispute resolutions—Techniques like facilitation and mediation can help solve a conflict before it escalates.
  • Threat assessment teams—A designated team can work with management to assess the potential for violence and develop an action plan.

Congress Considers Flood Insurance Reforms

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is one of the few ways to get insurance coverage for flood risks, and the program is set to expire later this year. However, Congress is currently examining a number of possible changes to the NFIP before it’s reauthorized.

One of the most important topics regarding the NFIP is its financial stability. The program is currently $24 billion in debt as a result of rising claims costs and severe weather events, and some lawmakers believe that the program needs substantial reforms in order to remain viable.

The following are some of the changes that are being considered to the NFIP:

  • Making private flood insurance more available to consumers
  • Limiting payments to properties that flood repeatedly
  • Reducing taxpayer subsidies for flood insurance
  • Creating financial incentives for flood mitigation

DOL Withdraws Joint Employment and Worker Classification Guidance

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently withdrew administrative interpretations regarding joint employment and the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors. These withdrawals can have significant consequences on legal protections for employees and eligibility for benefits.

  • Worker classification—Employers will need to satisfy tests established by the courts—such as the economic realities test—when classifying workers.
  • Joint employment—Joint employment can only be established when an employer has direct control over another employer’s workplace.

To learn more about what these withdrawals could mean for you, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. and ask to see our comprehensive compliance bulletins, “DOL Withdraws Joint Employer Guidance” and “DOL Withdraws Worker Classification Guidance.”

To download the full article click Here.


Unrealistic Expectations Muddy Employee Retirement Planning

Many younger employees have unrealistic dreams when it comes to planning their retirement. Here is a great article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit Adviser on what you can do to help your millennial employees plan for their future retirement.

Three generations of U.S. investors accept that they are largely responsible for funding their own retirements. But many of them harbor unrealistic hopes of receiving a sizable inheritance as part of their funding plan.

These were among the conclusions drawn by a recent survey of 750 individual investors with a minimum of $100,000 in investable assets—including 223 millennials, 251 Gen Xers and 236 baby boomers.

The 2017 study was conducted by the U.S. research arm of Natixis Global Asset Management, a French company that is one of the 20 largest asset managers in the world. It found that 78% of investors recognize that more of the retirement funding burden is falling on their shoulders, since their employers have begun offering defined contribution retirement plans in lieu of defined benefit pension plans. And many also believe that Social Security won’t be available to them by the time they retire. But a significant percentage (43%) hope to receive an inheritance that will help them compensate for any savings shortfall.

This is especially true of millennials, who are twice as likely as baby boomers to expect that a financial windfall from their parents or grandparents will play an important role in meeting their retirement needs. Per the survey, 62% of millennials, compared to only 31% of boomers, anticipate receiving an inheritance that will help fund their retirement.

That’s a major disconnect, says Dave Goodsell, executive director of the Natixis Durable Portfolio Construction Research Center, which carried out the research. He points to findings that 40% of baby boomers don’t plan to leave an inheritance and 57% don’t think they will have anything left to pass down to their children or grandchildren. Only 56% even have a will in place.

Further exacerbating the situation, many of the investors surveyed underestimate the amount of savings they will need for retirement. They assume that they will only need replace 63% of their pre-retirement income, according to Goodsell, which is at odds with the retirement industry’s more conservative target of 75% to 85%.

Looking to the kids

Apart from an inheritance, many of the investors surveyed also believe they can count on their children for some sort of support when they retire, either through shared living arrangements or some type of stipend or allowance. “Retirement has become a multigenerational question,” Goodsell observes.

On the other hand, only 37% of the respondents say they expect Social Security to be an important source of income for their retirement. “There’s a great deal of skepticism,” notes Goodsell, “which should serve as a motivation to plan ahead for retirement and set realistic savings and spending goals.” Unfortunately, he adds, many investors’ decision making is clouded by unrealistic expectations.

Workplace 401(k) plans encourage savings discipline, since they make it easy for employees to save automatically. But in and of themselves they are insufficient, says the Natixis researcher, and employers need to help their employees make better financial determinations by providing them with retirement planning tools, including access to a financial adviser.

“Access is critically important,” he says. “Because responsibility is being shifted off to individuals, we need to make sure they have access to the right resources and understand how to use them.”

Key topics that need to be addressed, according to the survey, include financial planning basics, such as budgeting; how to manage and plan for required minimum distributions; tax, estate and long-term care planning, as well as managing debt and credit cards and understanding investment risk.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladych P. (2017 June 25). Unrealistic expectations muddy employee retirement planning [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/unrealistic-expectations-muddy-employee-retirement-planning?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


2018 Amounts for HSAs; Retroactive Medicare Coverage Effect on Contributions

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

IRS Releases 2018 Amounts for HSAs

The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2017-37 that sets the dollar limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) for 2018.

For calendar year 2018, the annual contribution limit for an individual with self-only coverage under an HDHP is $3,450, and the annual contribution limit for an individual with family coverage under an HDHP is $6,900. How much should an employer contribute to an HSA? Read our latest news release for information on modest contribution strategies that are still driving enrollment in HSA and HRA plans.

For calendar year 2018, a "high deductible health plan" is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,650 for self-only coverage or $13,300 for family coverage.

Retroactive Medicare Coverage Effect on HSA Contributions

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released a letter regarding retroactive Medicare coverage and health savings account (HSA) contributions.

As background, Medicare Part A coverage begins the month an individual turns age 65, provided the individual files an application for Medicare Part A (or for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits) within six months of the month in which the individual turns age 65. If the individual files an application more than six months after turning age 65, Medicare Part A coverage will be retroactive for six months.

Individuals who delayed applying for Medicare and were later covered by Medicare retroactively to the month they turned 65 (or six months, if later) cannot make contributions to the HSA for the period of retroactive coverage. There are no exceptions to this rule.

However, if they contributed to an HSA during the months that were retroactively covered by Medicare and, as a result, had contributions in excess of the annual limitation, they may withdraw the excess contributions (and any net income attributable to the excess contribution) from the HSA.

They can make the withdrawal without penalty if they do so by the due date for the return (with extensions). Further, an individual generally may withdraw amounts from an HSA after reaching Medicare eligibility age without penalty. (However, the individual must include both types of withdrawals in income for federal tax purposes to the extent the amounts were previously excluded from taxable income.)

If an excess contribution is not withdrawn by the due date of the federal tax return for the taxable year, it is subject to an excise tax under the Internal Revenue Code. This tax is intended to recapture the benefits of any tax-free earning on the excess contribution.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 June 8). 2018 amounts for HSAs; retroactive medicare coverage effect on contributions  [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/2018-amounts-for-hsas-retroactive-medicare-coverage-effect-on-contributions


Rising Healthcare Costs Hurting Retirement Contributions

The rising costs of healthcare are starting to have a negative impact on employees. Find out how employees are having trouble saving for their retirement thanks to the rise of healthcare costs in the interesting article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit News.

Rising healthcare costs have had a dramatic impact on the ability of workers to save for retirement and other financial goals.

The latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report finds that of the workers who have experienced rising healthcare costs, more than half say they are contributing less to their financial goals as a result, including more than six in 10 who say they are saving less for retirement.

What’s more, financial stress also is playing a big role in employee physical health with nearly six in 10 employees saying it has had a negative impact on their physical well-being. This stress weighs most heavily on millennials at 68%, compared with baby boomers at 51%, according to the research.

Because of these dire statistics, more and more employees are looking to their employer to help them through financial challenges.

“We spend a lot of our waking time working and a lot of our finances are made up of the compensation and benefits our employer provides,” says Sylvie Feast, director of financial guidance services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “[Employer’s] healthcare and 401(k) plans are really valued by employees. I don’t think it’s surprising that they are looking to their employer that provides essential benefits to help provide access to ways to better manage their finances.”

And because employers offer healthcare and retirement benefits, it isn’t a stretch for workers to expect their employers to offer financial wellness as a benefit as well, Feast says.

“There’s no silver bullet, but a continuing evolution of trying new things to see what works and has an impact with the workforce,” Feast says. “Culture has something to do with it.”

Online tools, educational content, professional seminars in the workplace and personal consultations can be especially effective offerings, Feast says, adding that those options can help employees get more comfortable talking about their finances at work and at home with their family.

“People are pretty private about their finances,” Feast says. “I think there’s this access the employer needs to provide, but there also needs to be an arms-length distance so it is not the employer delivering it.”

Retirement savings is the area most workers want help with, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s survey. More than half of baby boomers (54% ), 53% of Generation X and 43% of millennials say they need help saving for retirement, with 50% of all respondents ranking it as their No. 1 financial issue.

For millennials, good general savings habits and paying down debt were their next most important financial priorities. For Generation X, paying down debt, good general savings habits and budgeting all tied for second, and for baby boomers, planning for healthcare costs and paying down debt were their next biggest financial priorities.

Eighty-six percent of employees surveyed say they would participate in a financial education program provided by their employer, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Financial education is a slow, but worthy process, Feast says.

“People don’t just automatically start to show an immediate impact to their behavior,” she says. But, “if [employees] take steps, [they] will start to gain control and get more confidence.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladych P. (2017 June 7). Rising healthcare costs hurting retirement contributions [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/rising-healthcare-costs-hurting-retirement-contributions


Millennials Lead Generational Split on Health Benefits

Did you know that millennial employees are more likely to focus on the benefits and costs associated with their healthcare plans compared to older employees? Take a look at this article by Amanda Eisenberg from Employee Benefit Adviser on why millennials are so much more involved with their healthcare plans.

Millennials are more likely to partake in cost-saving healthcare decisions than their older counterparts, according to new analysis from EBRI.

Employees born in 1977 or later, the millennial age range in this analysis, are well informed about their health plan and report higher levels of satisfaction with the health plan choices and financial aspects of their health plans than baby boomers and Gen Xers, according to the 2017 “Consumer Engagement in Health Care and Choice of Health Plan” report.

Millennials also are more likely to ask for a generic instead of a brand name drug (47%), develop a budget to manage healthcare expenses (35%) and check whether the health plan would cover care or medication (57%) compared to Generation X or baby boomers, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan research institute based in Washington, D.C.

Paul Fronstin, co-author of the study, attributed the generational attitude differences to the frequency employees interact with the health system and familiarity with technology.

“Older people are not used to using tools like online calculators to figure out health costs,” says EBRI’s director of health research and education program.

On the other hand, older generations have more experience buying and using healthcare than millennials, who are unlikely to contact cancer, heart disease and other illnesses that generally plague middle-aged and older employees, says Fronstin.

“It may be less stressful to pick the wrong plan and it may be coming out in [millennials’] attitudes,” he says. “Millennial attitudes could easily change as they get older and use more healthcare.”

The data comes from a 2015 poll of polled 3,590 adults between the ages of 21 and 64 who had health insurance provided through an employer (82%), purchased directly from a carrier or purchased through a government exchange.

The data, while two years old, doesn’t change the underlying attitudes toward healthcare options and costs, says Fronstin.

Yet determining those attitudes and a corresponding benefits plan is a major struggle for employers, he says.

Baby boomers and millennials “are both big segments of the population that most employers rely on,” Fronstin says. “You’ve got different groups here. If you want to be as effective as possible and get the most productivity, you need to understand where they’re coming from.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Eisenberg A. (2017 May 29). Millennials lead generational split on health benefits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/millennials-lead-generational-split-on-health-benefits?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


What's Really Draining Employee 401(k) Accounts

Are your employees placing enough emphasis in their retirement? Here is a great article by Cynthia Loh from Employee Benefit Advisor on what employers can do to help their employees properly utlizate their 401(k)s.

When it comes to debating the root cause of why Americans, as a whole, are short at least $6.8 trillion in retirement savings, it’s never long before someone points a finger at fees.

But while fees do their part to erode retirement nest eggs, there’s actually something far more detrimental to a comfortable retirement: the investing behavior of savers themselves. In fact, behavioral mistakes could cost savers 1.56% per year.

How does poor behavior add up to such a cost? Here are three core employee 401(k) missteps, and how plan sponsors can limit them.

1. Employees often make poor fund selections
Employees generally find it challenging to choose their own investments, and the task often ends up costing them.

For many employees, the initial obstacle of setting up a 401(k) plan stops them in their tracks. A large fund line-up can cause analysis paralysis, and actually reduce participation rates. One study found that for every additional 10 funds added to a set of plan options, participation drops by about 2%.

For those employees who do participate, they are left to fend for themselves with complex fund lineups. Ideally, they would establish an asset allocation with a correct level of risk and an optimal diversification for that risk tolerance. Unfortunately, a 2015 study by Financial Engines found that 61% of unadvised plan participants had inappropriate risk levels.

Finally, it’s not uncommon for employees to attempt investment selection without fully understanding proper diversification. Instead of balancing risk, participants might divide their money evenly between the options on an investment menu. For example, if six out of 10 options are stock funds, they are likely to end up at roughly 60% stocks. If 18 out of 20 options are stock funds, they will end up with 90% stocks.

So, what should you, the plan sponsor, do when your employees face a 401(k) situation that seems to inhibit participation, leads to unnecessary risk, and fails to encourage proper diversification?

Solution: Consider offering managed 401(k) accounts as a Qualified Default Investment Alternative
If employees find it challenging to make fund selections confidently, why not build in default investment advice to your plan? A Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA) provides a standard, default offer of a portfolio customized to each employee. By constructing a diversified, optimized portfolio for each employee as a standard service, your 401(k) plan can help employees avoid uninformed decisions about their investments. The fund selection process will be more straightforward for new employees. As such, they may be less likely to opt for unduly high risk levels, and, by default, their investments will then be properly diversified.

In other words, rather than providing employees with a list of ingredients, provide them with a prepared meal customized to their palate and set up to satisfy their financial health.

2. 401(k) participants often “set it and forget it”
For those participants that successfully navigate participation, asset allocation, and fund selection, the ongoing maintenance of a 401(k) still presents challenges. Many plan participants choose their deferral rates and funds on the first day of work and might not change anything for the entire time they’re at that employer — or even after they leave. Meanwhile, they’re missing out on the benefits that could be had by rebalancing or switching investments based on macro trends, such as an ETF price decrease.

Plan sponsors should consider all the options available to them for helping employees understand the right asset allocation, appropriate fund allocations, ongoing portfolio maintenance — and the path forward to a secure, stable retirement.

Solution: Enable automation to help your employees maintain their 401(k)
401(k) maintenance is essential, but it shouldn’t fall on individual employees to disrupt their daily lives to keep things up-to-date. Technology can make the task of maintaining 401(k) investments far easier for employees.

If employees don’t want to actively revisit their deferral rates and asset allocations on an annual basis, automation can handle the process of portfolio rebalancing and tax optimization for the participant. While target-date funds (TDFs) have offered limited automatic adjustment for years, today, 401(k) plans built with automated advice tend to offer more personalized optimization for employees. For instance, TDFs usually rely on a generic set of assumptions about their investors to determine how they rebalance and adjust risk over time. Automated 401(k) plans can offer personalized rebalancing, tax optimization, and asset reallocation, solving for an individual’s specific characteristics and goals.

3. Poor investing behavior is a workplace issue
Employees talk to each other about their benefits, worry together from time to time, and often ask one another for advice. In short, water-cooler talk plays a role in how participants behave with regards to their 401(k).

In any given office, there’s at least one employee — we’ll call him Gary — who fancies himself a stock trading guru. Gary checks the morning headlines and stock tickers. He’s always offering unsolicited financial advice to his fellow colleagues. And he spends a lot of time at the water cooler.

For novice employees, having somebody like Gary in the office can either inspire them to gain financial literacy or drastically sway their investing behavior. As the plan’s fiduciary, the 401(k) plan sponsor should make sure the right financial advice reaches all employees, so that water-cooler talk from people like Gary doesn’t play too large a role in employees’ investing behavior.

Solution: Offer personalized financial advice in your 401(k) plan
A responsible way to give employees the information they need to make good decisions is to offer personalized financial advice with your 401(k) plan. Advice from a fiduciary adviser helps participants make decisions for their own individual situation, removing the confusion of what they hear at work, see on television, or learn from their peers.

That advice becomes more valuable when it takes into account personal goals such as buying a home and covers all assets, including 401(k) assets. Some 401(k) platforms have educational features built in that can anticipate when a participant has a question or appears confused and serves up tailored information that can help employees make a sound decision. Others make use of customer service centers that make it easy for employees to ask questions to experts when they need to, rather than front-loading them with information during an orientation.

Save your employees the cost of poor investing behavior
When it comes down to it, plan sponsors often underestimate just how confusing 401(k) plans can be for employees. Most employees know that saving for retirement is important, but few actually understand all they should do to maximize the benefit of their 401(k) contributions.

Help your employees save money by selecting a 401(k) solution that helps to minimize behavioral mistakes. Poor fund selection, lack of account maintenance, and bad advice shouldn’t detract from employees’ results. With elegant solutions like a managed account QDIA, investment automation, and expert advice, you can save your employees time, money and anxiety.

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Source:

Loh C. (2017 June 13). What's really draining employee 401(k) accounts [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/whats-really-draining-employee-401-k-accounts