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“Safe harbor” 401k plans are the most popular type of 401k used by small businesses today. They automatically pass annual ADP/ACP and top heavy tests and allow business owners to maximize contributions to the plan. To achieve safe harbor status, owners are required to make a contribution on behalf of participating employees. For many employers, that trade-off is well worth the cost. Here’s why.
Ever hear of voluntary 401k contributions? If you are like most people, probably not. They are after-tax employee contributions like Roth deferrals, but subject to different ERISA rules. Voluntary contributions have been around decades longer than Roth deferrals, but are less popular – mostly because their earnings can’t be withdrawn tax-free at retirement like Roth deferrals.
Last week, Frontline published an article as a follow-up to its 2013 documentary “The Retirement Gamble.” That documentary painted a picture of a retirement industry mired in hidden fees and conflicts of interests. In the new article, Frontline interviewed Jerome Schlichter, a St. Louis attorney specializing in suing plan sponsors for excessive 401k fees. Over the years, Schlichter has settled six 401k cases, including cases against General Dynamics, International Paper and Caterpillar. The settlements have been huge and influential, generating $125 million in recoveries to 300,000 participants.
On February 23, 2015, President Obama announced that the long-awaited redrafting of the DOL’s “fiduciary rule” was being submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. This rule, also called the “conflict of interest rule for investment advice,” would subject all financial advisors who provide investment advice to retirement plans to a fiduciary (conflict-free) standard of care.
Most people consider $100,000 a lot of money – I do anyway. But is it a lot of money when you’re saving for retirement? The short answer is it depends upon how old you are. A 30 year-old with a $100,000 nest egg is likely on track for a comfortable retirement at age 65 if they’re saving 10%-15% of their income each year, while a 50 year-old with the same nest egg is likely behind in their savings and will need to save much more each year to catch-up in order to retire at 65.
Selecting competent service providers is one of the most important fiduciary duties of a 401k plan sponsor – and it can appear daunting at first glance. Fortunately, this process can be made much simpler by understanding each service that makes up a 401k plan and applying appropriate benchmarks to those services to measure their value. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to pick 401k providers based on the value of their services.