Monthly Newsletter

CLICK HERE FOR OUR LATEST 401(k) COMMENTS

Periodic updates from what our team is seeing in the field including reactions to regulatory updates, plan sponsor issues & solutions, and fiancial wellness initiatives. We aim to bring actionable ideas that you can apply to your organizations to make the retirement plan a better benefit.

 

 

CLICK HERE FOR OUR LATEST PLANNING THOUGHTS

Insights from CSG team members on topics and concepts across cash management, investment positioning, tax issues, and estate preservation. We hope that sharing examples of how we are tackling issues for clients can provide useful context for our planning process.

 

401(k) Commentary from Murray Carter - March 2018

When hiring a good retirement plan advisor, it is often possible for plan sponsors to increase their understanding of the responsibilities associated with directly administering and maintaining their fiduciary responsibility and provide a high level of service to participants, while maintaining or even reducing overall costs. We have done precisely this for many clients over the past several years.

There are four major components of what you and your employees are paying for to be a participant in your 401(k): Recordkeeping, Administration, Investments and Advice. We believe that the first 3 are largely commoditized. Plan sponsors must ensure that each area is operating at a high level, is reviewed regularly, and has a documented set of procedures in place to cover fiduciary duties for the plan. Do we find opportunities to reduce costs, improve a fund lineup, and add fiduciary coverage? Of course. However, improving these three areas are the easy part, and represent table stakes for plan sponsors and experienced retirement plan advisors.

Advice, in our opinion, is the high value area that can have the largest impact to ensure that the plan design is optimized, while meeting fiduciary responsibilities. In our experience reviewing retirement plans, fees for some level of plan and participant advice are being charged – however, in many cases, plan sponsors aren’t getting the caliber of service that we feel is afforded to them given the current market environment.

We earn our advisory compensation for two primary services, 1) serving as a third-party co-fiduciary for the plan and 2) serving as a resource for on-going and on-demand financial counsel for employees. As a co-fiduciary, we ensure that the basics are covered;  (a) we will benchmark your costs against relevant market and industry comparables, and (b) we will implement a documented process for ensuring that the investments that you offer to your employees are meeting the proper objectives. As a resource for your employees, we strive to positively impact their lives financially. Employees receive consistent financial wellness resources, presentations, and one-on-one interaction throughout the year. Improving outcomes and employee confidence around their financial well-being has wide ranging benefits for them and the company. These range from higher engagement and productivity on the job to lower wage and health care costs over time associated with fewer delayed retirements. Furthermore, we will go beyond these basics and explore plan design options to ensure that the plan continues to meet the evolving needs of your company’s demographics and strategic initiatives.

A case study: A high growth technology company has seen its headcount swell from 1,000 to 2,000 employees and has $20 million in the 401(k) plan. The recordkeeper/administration vendor that started the plan is doing a fine job but has not proactively reduced its fee. The investment lineup has evolved over time, but the share classes being used have not been reviewed for possible cost reduction in a number of years. The advisor that helped set up the plan visits with the retirement plan committee, at most, once per year and offers financial advice to employees only if they were to reach out to her and she does not serve as an official fiduciary for the plan.

A plan with this level of assets has significant pricing power in the market today. Your recordkeeper and your investment providers are not required or incentivized to proactively reduce their fees as your plan hits certain thresholds. It is incumbent upon you and your advisor to review each area regularly. Also, a semi-annual or quarterly meeting with the new advisor positions the plan sponsor to fulfill its fiduciary duty and keep administrative items in check. Namely, it also provides the framework for the plan sponsor to adhere to the Investment Policy Statement, keep a fiduciary file, and prevent underperforming funds from languishing in the lineup. Now that the basics are taken care of, the advisor can work with the investment committee to ensure the plan design is optimal for the needs of the company, and interact with the participants directly to help educate and formulate financial plans to work toward individualized goals. Within a few months of hiring a good retirement plan advisor, the company sees an increase in services offered to plan participants, with the added possibility of reducing costs.  

As you can see, even if a plan feels like it is “running smoothly,” proper fiduciary practices can often lead to improvements to the experience of the sponsor and participants alike. This is a compelling case study in the value of a good advisor relationship.

Information provided is general and educational in nature. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal or tax advice. Janney Montgomery Scott LLC does not provide legal or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. Janney makes no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use. Janney disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information. Consult an attorney or tax advisor regarding your specific legal or tax situation. Investing involves market risk, including possible loss of principal. The factual information given herein is taken from sources that we believe to be reliable, but is not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and do not take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs of individual investors. Employees of Janney Montgomery Scott LLC or its affiliates may, at times, release written or oral commentary, technical analysis or trading strategies that differ from the opinions expressed here. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

 

401(k) Commentary from Murray Carter - January 2018

As 2017 began all eyes were focused on Washington as we looked at the Department of Labor Fiduciary rule and fittingly the year ends with the focus on Washington again, this time for tax reform. Throughout the year we have had to look at how changes being discussed and/or enacted by government affect retirement plans and participants. To keep up with the changes we are active within the National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA) for which we attend the annual “Fly-In” to hear from those directly affecting legislation and to make sure our voice is heard.

In addition to the Fly-In I attended the annual NAPA conference back in March. I also attended The Retirement Advisor Universities first ever “Masters” class to further best practices in the retirement plan market. This class was a continuation of the education received when I was conferred the C(k)P – Certified 401(k) Professional designation.

At CSG we are grateful for the trust that has been placed in us and continue to look for opportunities to meet with new Plan Sponsors to grow our business. There is so much that can be done to improve plans and participant retirement outcomes. This knowledge and the processes we have in place leave me optimistic that positive change will continue as we go into 2018.

Rest assured, we are keeping an eye on Washington and will be proactively looking for how to stay in front of best practices for you and your participants.

Financial Planning Thoughts - March 2018

What would it take for you to retire today?

Financial planning brings a lot of emotions to the surface for those embarking on the exercise of trying to figure out how the next 5, 10, 15 years might look like. Generally, the output calls for working well into your 60s, maybe even 70s, to be able to save ‘enough’ to retire and maintain a particular lifestyle. Are you stressed out reading this yet? You’re not alone. Thinking about grinding it out for another stretch of time toward goals that are loosely defined at best could make anyone cringe and it is a primary reason that instead of planning most people…don’t.

What if you framed the conversation differently and asked what it would take to stop working in your current job today? Take a step outside of the box, rethink what ‘retirement’ might look like, and release yourself from the emotional prison that you’re currently in about financial planning.

What if you downsized your house and moved to a lower cost of living area? What if you and/or your spouse could secure a part-time job instead of moving into full retirement? What if you stopped perpetually leasing new vehicles every 2 years? What if you didn’t fully fund the kids’ college expenses to an out-of-state private school and told them you’d cover public, in-state? Could you figure out a way to make it work? Run some scenarios and get some broad answers – you may not find a path that allows you to stop working today and maintain a standard of living that you deem acceptable, but at least you’ll be asking the right questions, setting the foundation for future behavior and decisions that might get you there faster than you thought possible. We’ve found that working through this process provides a sense of hope where a complete lack of peace of mind once existed. Even if you’re not quite there, you’ll be more committed to getting over the hump, and if you do actually find a scenario that works, cheers, go make it happen.

 

Financial Planning Thoughts - February 2018

Don’t React Emotionally…Respond Intentionally

 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” – Victor Frankl

 

There are many times when things are happening in our lives that are partially or completely out of our control. These times are often accompanied by heightened stress and anxiety that significantly increase the probability that we make a bad decision. This is why we plan. Planning is not a script set in stone for what will play out over time, in fact, there is little to no chance that your baseline plan ever plays out. There are too many variables, too many unknowns, and too many opportunities to shift to a more desired course in the future. However, if your planning process involves discussing contingencies and drafting action plans for a variety of scenarios, you will dramatically improve your ability to choose the right path for you in the face of a disruption. We must have conversations around uncomfortable topics and how we will respond to opportunity, we must determine what happens if no action is taken and identify best next steps to take, and we must continually adapt our plan to new information.

 

As a team we strive to lead clients through these conversations so that they may overcome challenges, avoid big mistakes, and maintain their lifestyle for the long term.

 

 

Financial Planning Thoughts - Saving vs Spending - January 2018

Do you want to be wealthy or appear to be wealthy? Do your actions around savings and spending reflect your answer?

Remember, being a millionaire and spending a million dollars are exactly opposite. The path to financial independence is paved by living within one's means so that a significant amount of income can be saved and invested. No matter your income, net worth builds when accumulating appreciating assets over an extended period of time rather than spending on depreciating assets. Its simple math and math wins. But if it's so simple, why don't we do it? For much the same reason that we don't diet and exercise as much as we know that we should - Our culture's unwavering desire and pressure to consume and a perceived lack of time.  

The cash flow discussion is a foundational element of a sound financial plan. We break it down as follows:

  1. Create and commit to a vision for the future – Taking the time to visualize what life would be like after achieving financial freedom establishes a focal point. When faced with a spending decision or any decision that may impact your finances, ask yourself if your intended course of action gets you closer or farther from your vision. For example, you need a new car – do you buy the $50,000 current year model or the three year old model at $30,000 and invest the difference? Is the prestige of new car ownership worth forgoing the compounding returns of $20,000? Most millionaires have never purchased a brand new vehicle – that's how they became millionaires.

     

  2. Honestly assess what happens if you don't save – We are all extremely motivated by avoiding loss. It would be wonderful if the hope of a clear vision for the future we aspire to was enough to get us to change spending habits and commit to a plan, but it is not. We must examine what happens if we don't. Understand that you cannot and will not work and earn forever. There will come a time when you will need to depend on accumulated assets to maintain a desired lifestyle and your spending activity now dramatically impacts that equation. Quantifying the income gap created by not saving today can be a powerful trigger in changing behavior.

     

  3. Pay attention and budget – Do you know where all of your money goes each week/month/year? Shouldn't you? Do you have a system for reviewing how you are doing across a variety of spending categories? Most families that have a high net worth do, families that, even when high earners, have not accumulated wealth tend not to have a defined budgeting strategy. This does not have to be an arduous process to include pouring over line item entries on a bank or credit card statement. Simply being aware in the midst of our hectic lives is the first step, then we must ask ourselves if our spending trends in any one category align with our stated goal of becoming financially independent. My preferred budgeting strategy is simple – save first (automatically), cover fixed expenses and obligations, spend the rest stress free without going into debt. If ‘the rest' isn't providing the lifestyle I want I need to make more money or reevaluate where my money is going, not pay for it later.

     

  4. Automate savings – If 15% of your paycheck is divided amongst a company retirement plan, health savings account, college savings accounts, and investments and then you keep your cost of living within the remaining 85%, you will accumulate wealth, period. If you reverse the order, spending down your paycheck and then determining how much you can save with what is left, you've made things so much harder on yourself. Forcing yourself to make a conscious decision to save every month is exhausting, having it done automatically expends no mental energy each month.

     

  5. Start right now – We give our future selves far too much credit for what they will be able to accomplish in catching up on the savings front. First, our future selves are still us – if we kick this can down the road today, what evidence is there to suggest that we will not do the same thing next year (see the United States Congress). Second, starting now, even with a smaller amount, is better than starting later with significantly higher savings. Compound interest's most important variable is time. If you saved 3% last year, save 4% this year, up it again in 2019…do something, anything to get closer to financial freedom. Your future self will thank you.