Building a Retirement Plan from Scratch

When deciding how to best structure and monitor the retirement plan, employees can benefit by asking themselves:  What if they were building their plan from scratch?  Here are some more specific questions to consider:

  1. How should the fund line-up be designed?  Is there an ideal number of funds to have that will maximize participation and minimize confusion?  Do you believe in offering actively managed funds to give participants the opportunity to “beat the market”?  How likely are they to accomplish this goal?  Should participants have access to a self-directed brokerage account so they can each have the ability to choose any fund they want?
  2. What steps can be taken to make sure that the participants properly utilize the investment options?  For example, if you have target date funds, are participants using the funds correctly as stand-alone options, or are they choosing other funds in addition to the target date funds?  Are participants mistakenly choosing highly correlated funds falsely thinking that more funds will make their portfolio more diversified?
  3. What criteria should you use to choose your service providers such as the custodian, record keeper, administrator, and advisor?  Years of experience?  Number of plans?  Assets under management?  Ability of the representatives to relate and connect with your participants? (this is especially important)  Quality of the website?  Employee and client turnover?  Average employee tenure?  Effective utilization of technology?  Access to a dedicated support specialist instead of an 800 number? (for the record keeper)
  4. How much of an issue is fiduciary liability for your business?  What kinds of fiduciary liability exist, and which are most significant?  What steps can you take to protect yourself against fiduciary liability?
  5. How should the service fees be structured?  Asset-based?  Flat fee per participant?  Flat fee based on service time?
  6. Should the company write a check for the service fees or pass them on to participants?  If the fees are passed on to participants, should they be passed on equally or in proportion to the account balances?
  7. How can you best create a retirement plan to motivate, attract, and retain valuable employees?  Should you offer a profit sharing contribution and a match?  If so, what is the best way to design a match?  Should you offer a non-qualified deferred compensation plan in addition to the defined contribution plan that specific benefits key employees?  If so, how should this plan be funded?  Would it make sense to offer a defined benefit plan as well?
  8. What is the best way to communicate the benefits and costs to the participants?  E-mail?  Webinar?  Face-to-face group meetings?  Face-to-face one on one meetings?  How much do your employees appreciate the benefit of the retirement plan?  What steps can you take to increase their understanding and appreciation of this benefit?
  9. What are the primary factors that affect the ability to retire comfortably?
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Retirement Plans Likely Paying Excessive Compensation to Service Providers

I have identified this list of over 500 retirement plans throughout the Chicago area that are likely paying excessive compensation out of plan assets.  I say likely rather than definitely because something may have changed since the most recent 5500 form was filed, and I do not know the specific level of services being provided.  However, being an independent registered investment advisor specializing in providing advice with respect to group retirement plans and having reviewed over ten thousand 5500 forms over the past decade, I have become sufficiently familiar with the marketplace to determine what constitutes reasonable provider compensation for a full range of service levels.  Consequently, I can confidently say that many of these plans are still paying excessive compensation even if they are receiving high levels of service because there often still isn’t enough work to do to justify these compensation levels.

Law firms:

Murphy & Hourihane LLC

Dana Crowley & Associates

Patzik, Frank, & Samotny Ltd.

Bell & Anderson LLC

Mulherin, Rehfeldt, & Varchetto

Levin & Brend

Baum Ruffolo and Marzal Ltd

Epstein and Epstein

Schoenberg, Finkel, Newman, & Rosenberg

Righeimer, Martin, & Cinquino

Lavelle Law

Chapman & Spingola LLP

Stein Ray LLP

Barker & Castro

Mcgann and Matesevic Ltd.

McCracken, Walsh, Carlisle, and De Lavan

Edward Jaquays Law Office

Johnson & Bell

Applegate & Thorne-thomsen P C

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd.

Ariano Hardy Nyuli Johnson Richmond & Goettel PC

Lillig & Thorness Ltd.

Inman & Fitzgibbons Ltd

Corboy & Demetrio

Masuda Funai Eifert & Mitchell Ltd

Querrey & Harrow Ltd

Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg Llp

Anesi Ozmon Rodin Novak & Kohen Ltd

Okeefe Lyons & Hynes Llc

Williams Montgomery & John Ltd

Pattishall Mcauliffe

Klein Thorpe And Jenkins Ltd

Tenney & Bentley Llc

Levenfeld Pearlstein

Wiedner & Mcauliffe Ltd

Donohue Brown Mathewson & Smyth

Beermann Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove

Schuyler Roche & Crisha,  P.C.

Robbins Salomon & Patt Ltd

Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym Ltd

Drane & Freyer Limited

Johnson & Bell Ltd

Eimer Stahl Llp

Pretzel & Stouffer Chartered

Fuchs & Roselli Ltd

Berger Schatz

Figliulo & Silverman P C

Scariano Himes And Petrarca Attorneys At Law Chartered

Hamilton Thies Lorch & Hagnell Llp

Flanagan Bilton

Meltzer Purtill & Stelle

Hoogendoorn & Talbot Llp

Ruff, Freud, Breems & Nelson Ltd.

Speers Reuland & Cibulskis PC

Pugh Jones Johnson & Quandt PC

Hodges Loizzi Eisenhammer Rodick And Kohn

Foran Glennon Palandech & Ponzi PC

Stellato & Schwartz Ltd

Molzahn, Rocco, Reed & Rouse, LLC

Richmond Breslin Llp

Franks Gerkin & Mckenna PC

Cullen Haskins Nicholson & Menchetti PC

Hogan Marren Ltd

Inman & Fitzgibbons Ltd

Dimonte & Lizak

Capron & Avgerinos P C

Glenn Stearns Chapter 13 Trustee

Whitt Law

Hoey & Farina  PC

Scandaglia & Ryan

Scott & Kraus LLC

Heineke & Burke LLC

Bronson & Kahn Llc

Crowley & Lamb

Grund & Leavitt

Walker Wilcox Matousek Llp

 

Non-law firms:

Chams Women’s Health Care

Kloss Distributing Company

Midwest Vacuum, Inc.

Kidney & Hypertension Consultants

Edmund D Tobias DDS

RTM & Associates

Deborah L Beaty DDS

North Suburban Periodontics

Lake County Pediatrics

Lake Anesthesia Associates

John Woods & Associates, Inc

Oral Facial and Implant Specialists

Illinois Orthopaedic & Hand Center

Ampere Electric Services

B & L Automotive Repairs

Lanette Disera DDS

Richmond Electric Co., Inc.

Pacific Coast Marketing

University Anesthesiologists

Lake Book Manufacturing

March Manufacturing

Metal Parts & Equipment

West Central Anesthesiology Group

University Pathologists

Elmhurst Emergency Medical Services

Dupage Valley Anesthesiologists

Fox Valley Orthopaedic Associates

Talcott Internal Medicine

Anesthesiologists, Ltd

Suburban Radiologists

Physician Anesthesia Associates

DS & P Insurance Services

Lakeside Equipment Corporation

Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co

Elmhurst Radiologists

Metro Infectious Disease Consultants

Associated Opthamologists

Vonberg Valve

Hedges Clinic

Bachman Enterprises

Womancare

Fertility Centers of Illinois

Midwest Neoped Associates, Ltd

Dental Health of Wheaton

Elmhurst Anesthesiologists

IPC International Inc

Florida Plastics Intl Inc

Orthopaedic Associates of Chicago, Ltd./DBA  Northwestern Center for

The Mazzetta Company

Halls Complete Rental Service

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy

Elmhurst Medical Associates

Orthopedic & Spine Surgery Associates, Ltd.

Rheumatology Associates

WM. F. Meyer Company

R Lance Robbins DDS

Associated Orthodontists, Ltd

Plibrico Company, LLC

Nadler Golf Car Sales

Fox Valley Family Physicians

Universal Chemical and Coatings

Consumers Direct

W B Olson, Inc.

Dupage Pathology Associates

Lakeside Nephrology, Ltd.

Hand Surgery Associates

Lagrange Women’s Clinic

Suburban Ear Nose & Throat Associates

Kane Anesthesia Associates

Affiliated Steam Equipment Company

Rent Com, Inc

Antarctic Mechanical Services, Inc.Fisher Container Corp

Property Loss Research Bureau

Bingamonn Precision Metal Spinning Corp.

Ad-Park Pediatric Associates

Vegetable Juices Inc.

Drs. Robin & Fretzin

Rosenbaum & Levine MD

University Opthamology Associates, Ltd.

Production Plus

Hochstadter Isaacson Cherny Dumanic & Assoc

South West Industries

Canning Inc.

Elgin Beverage Co

Wickstrom Auto Group

Arthur J Greene Construction, Co, Inc.

Aurora Air Products

Illinois Retina Associates

Michlin Metals Inc.

Northwest General Surgeons

Associated Laboratory Physicians

West Suburban Neurological Associates

Neumann Co Contractors

Cardiovascular Surgeons

Northwestern Women’s Health Associates

Jay Berwanger

Phoenix Developers LLC

Laboratory & Pathology Diagnostics, LLC

Citation Box and Paper Co

North Arlington Pediatrics

Jon-Don Inc

Willie Washer

Kbkb, Ltd

Wilkens-Anderson Company

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of U.S.A.

Trialco

Manjeet Chawla, MD

Frank Burla & Sons Builders

Advanced Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

Pediatric Specialists of the Northwest

Grayslake Animal Hospital

Avenue Metal Manufacturing Co

David Architectural Metals

Digital Design Corporation

A-L Equipment Co, Inc.

Chorzempa and Ziah DDS

Northwest Womens Consultants

Narain D. Sawlani

Bushnell Inc

Arthur Weiler Inc

Soudan Metals Company

Metropolitan Advanced Radiological Services, Ltd.

Skaja Terrace Funeral Home

West Suburban Family Practice Associates

Evaskus & Herzog

Converting Technology

Leonards Unit Step Company

Sanford L Barr DDS

John Sakash Co., Inc.

Gaby Iron & Metal Co Inc.

Steven J Moravec, DDS

Schaumburg Family Physicians

Suburban Plastic Surgery

Nancy Chao Lichon MD

Em Enterprises

Numark Credit Union

Staalsen Construction

John M. Damas, DDS

Colonial Dental Group

Janco Supply

Illinois Fibre Specialty Co

Drs Bell, Stromberg, Harris, Nagle, Wiedrich

Midwest Cardiac Consultants

Presence Marketing

Uptown Animal Hospital

Associated Urological

Uptown Animal Hospital

Plum Grove Dental Associates

Northwest Dermatology

William E. Woods, MD

D. Milton Salzer DDS

Skach Manufacturing Company

Twinplex Manufacturing Co

BK Controls

Northwest Pulmonary Associates

Midwest Fence Corporation

Crawford Material Co

Teamwork Marketing Corp

Adams Machinery Company

Drs. Akers, Stohle, & Borden

Lydon & Associates

Northwest Suburban Medical Associates

Midland Orthopedic Associates

Digi-Trax Corp

Ortigara’s Musicville

House of Cans

Suburban Eye Consultants

Voco Tool & Manufacturing

Kevin Odonoghue MD & Marianne N Odonoghue MD

Associated Radiologists of Joliet

Dundee Animal Hospital

CL Greenslade Sales

Midwest Surgery

Surgery Group

Northwest Eye Clinic Ltd

Randy R Zimmerman MD

Tennenbaum & Anstadt, Ltd. D/B/A Gottlieb Eye Center

Demar

Wellington Radiology Group

Dante Gabriel MD

David P Potts, DDS

Solomon Management Group

American Demolition Corp.

Anesthesia Consultants of Morris LLC

Loyola Paper Co.

Eye Specialists of Illinois

Reed Rigging

Nazareth Academy

Rubinos & Mesia Engineers

G & M Distributors

Medical Center Dental Associates, Ltd.

McKernin Exhibits

Phillip L. Cacioppo, MD

Chicago Pawners & Jewelers

Michael Kowalik DDS

Continental Air Transport Co.

Crawford Steel

Kwasigroch Electric

Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute of Chicago, LLC

Midwest Cardiac Center

Tfaz Group

XL Screw Corporation

Thomas G. Bleck DDS and Eman J. Alsahlani DMD Ltd.

Superior Super Auto Wash, Inc.

Novas, Dohr, & Coll Ob/Gyn Assoc

Emergency Medicine Risk Management/DBA The Sullivan Group

Engineering Enterprises

Women’s Center for Obstetrics Gynecology & Midwifery

G.E. Mathis Company

DC Vast Inc

PMAutomotive Inc.

Mark A Greenberger M.D.

Patio Food Products

Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology LLC

Oak Mill Medical Associates

North Suburban Periodontics Ltd.

Suburban Pediatrics

Fox Valley Ear Nose & Throat Associates

Borter Heating & Air Conditioning Co.

Compact Industries, Inc.

Mid-States Recycling

Aldon Co Inc.

Thomas J Streitz DDS

American Association of Neurosurgeons

R.L. Perlow Corporation

Hinsdale Anesthesia Assoc Ltd

Suburban Plastic Surgery

The Womens Group of Northwestern

Prime Steel Corporation

Duffy & Kwiatt Dental Associates

Oak Park Allergists

Kloberdanz  Oral Surgery and Dental Implants

Retina Services of Illinois LLC

New York Blower Co.

Northern Products Co.

Zirlin Interiors

Aquion, Inc.

Bellman Melcor LLC

Pioneer Wholesale Meat

Chicago Tag & Label Inc.

Lamp Inc.

Lawrence’s Fisheries, Inc.

Paragon Automation

Klein & Slotten Medical Associates, Inc,

Northwest Radiology Associates

Orchard Group

Syr-Tech Perforating, Inc.

Presssence Pressure Sensitive Papers, Inc.

University Associates in Dentistry, Ltd.

Medical Center Anesthesia

Westmoreland Obstetric & Gynecological Associates

Lake Country Surgeons

Meyer Partners LLC

Kayhan International Limited

Lerman Sweeney & Company LLP

Ward Contracting & Building Restoration

Illinois Orthopedic & Hand Center

Technology Services Group

Lake County Head & Neck Specialists Ltd.

Kirschhoffer Truck Service

University Eye Specialists

Maximum Independent Brokerage LLC

Westbrook Internal Medicine

Gavani and Kanuri MD

Randallwood Radiology

Robin B Blakkolb DDS

Internal Medicine Associates, LLC

Orchard Medical Center

Children’s Health Care, Ltd.

Association for Women’s Health Care

Herlihy Mid-Continent Company

Associated Property Counselors

M & R Electronic Systems Inc.

Pinnacle Advertising & Marketing Group

Genesis Clinical Services

Gerald Mackey D.D.S.

New Age Periodontics/Glen Periodontics

Keith P. Rojek, D.D.S.

Mark A Wojciechowski DDS

Fischl Dental Associates

Engineered Packaging Solutions

Tyler Medical Services

Tower Dental Associates

Ofelia B Ayuste, MD

Chicago Prostate Center

Chicago Anesthesia Associates

Blake Horio MD

Behles Family Dental Care LLC

Barbato & Zbiegien, M.D., S.C.

Anthony R Markiewicz DDS

Allied Anesthesia Associates

Allergy & Asthma Consultants

Excel Occupational Health Clinic

Evaskus & Herzog

Fairview Dental Group

Family Practice Specialist

Mark Allan Berk MD

David R Musich, DDS & Matthew J Busch, DDS

Dean Lodding Smiles

Dentistry for Kids

Denise M Lindley & Associates

Jeffrey M Grimley DDS

Jeffrey M Goldberg Law Offices

Deeke Animal Hospital

James D Rohan DDS

Millennium Endodontics

John Querin Cook MD

John J Perna DDS

Opthamology Partners

Paul L Engen DDS

Paul J Willis DDS & Elliot Abt DDS

Orthopedic Associates of Riverside

Lake Shore Obstretics & Gynecology LLC

Stephens Dentistry

Sharon L. Horton MD

Schweitzer Family Dental

Scheer Surgical

Schaumburg Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

Rubin Veterinary Services

Ravenswood Dental Group

Triad Radiology & Imaging

Comprehensive Pain Care

Drs. McCullom

ABC Dentistry

Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago

Aesthetic & Clinical Dermatology Associates of Hinsdale

Robert C. Malenius D.D.S.

Moria C Ariano MD

Animal Care Clinic Fox Valley

Greg E Sharon MD DBA Allergy & Asthma Center

Asthma & Allergy Center

Plainfield Pediatric Dentistry Ltd.

Pinski Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery

Progressive Medical Center

Richard N Gershenzon DDs & Assoc

Midwest Respiratory

Midwest Minimally Invasive Spine Specialists

Michigan Avenue Internists LLC

Michael E Bond DDS

MedHQ LLC

Mechanical Engineering Products Co.

Meadows Dental Group

Mark J Landau DDS

Pulmonary Consultants

Rita J Tamilu-Shea DDS

Illinois Implant Dentistry

Harold J Krinsky DDS

Harold Jaimes MD

Wheaton Pediatrics

Mary Ha DDS

KSA Lighting LLC

Just Rite Acoustics Inc.

John J Pempek Inc.

Heynssens & Grassman Inc.

Healthcare-ID Inc.

Harrison Street Real Estate

Graham Carreras Holdings LLC

Framarx Corp.

Ability

Ad/Solutions Group Inc.

Air Source Products

Americ (The Elks Grand Lodge)

American Overseas Transport

Burns Entertainment & Sports Market

CCM Inc.

Apex Dental Materials

Applied Finance Group

Winters Family Practice

Video Refurbishing Services

Vincor Ltd.

Tsurumi America

Top Hits Inc.

Tool King Inc.

Tidal Construction Services

Thorndale Construction Services

Thermosoft International Corporation

The Women’s Practice LLC

The Stationary Studio LLC

The Sign Place Inc.

The Rubicon Group Limited

Worldbridge Partners Chicago

The Engineering Studio Inc.

Telecom Management Inc.

Tele-Fonika Cable Americas Corp

Synergistic Enterprises Inc.

Travis Inc.

Tovar Snow Professionals Inc.

Sky Road LLC

Skokie Valley Air Control

Skokie Meadows Nursing Centers

Single Path LLC

Simplomatic Manufacturing

SSC Installations

Rock Island Capital LLC

RKA Applied Solutions, Inc.

Redi-Strip Co.

Rail Exchange

Radco Industries, Inc.

Practical Environmental Consultants, Inc.

Porter Lee Corp

Pivot Design

Onshore Networks of Illinois, LLC

Metal Parts & Equipment Co.

Maywood Glass & Mirror

Maller Peterson

Malcolm S Gerald & Associates, Inc.

Machine Solution Providers, Inc.

Quality Restorations

Lindbald Construction Co. of Joliet

Lionheart Critical Power Specialists

Lincoln Way Community Bank

Leeds Auto Sales

Lemko Corporation

Lapmaster International

Kraff Eye Institute

Kleen Air Service Corporation

King Koil Licensing Co Inc.

JLO Metal Products

International Facilities Group

Inrule Technology

Industrial Water Treatment Solutions

Jelmar LLC

Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home

Extent Systems

Elite Wireworks Corp DBA Active Wireworks

Elite Staffing Inc.

Elgin Beverage Co

Elara Energy Services

Designation Inc.

Doering Landscape Co.

Diehl Controls North America

Dere Tire & Auto Inc.

Dan Wolf Motors of Naperville

Cullen-Ehrens Inc DBA CEI Transport

Contemporary Marketing Inc

Consolidated Buying Co LLC

Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute

Arbon Steel and Service Co

Barton Management

Adams Plastics LP

Abelei Inc

A & N Mortgage Services

National Seed

1st Equity Bank

Scurto Cement

Integrated Project Management Co Inc.

Perfection Spring & Stamping

Hayes Mechanical LLC

Telcom Innovations Group LLC

Orland Toyota

Karl Lambrecht Corp.

American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons

ISK Industries

Arpac LP

Institute of Food Technologists

Bar Code Graphics Inc.

First Security Systems

Keeley Construction

Edwin Hancock Engineering

Europa Eyewear Corporation

Applications Software Technology

Comet Die & Engraving Co.

Fitz Chem

Rezek, Henry, Meisenheimer, & Gende,

Maron Electric

Fort Dearborn Partners

Hall Technologies

Imperial Crane Services

Mills-Winfield Engineering Sales Inc.

Golan’s Moving & Storage Inc.

The Abrix Group

Vitacolor

Creative Die Mold Corp.

Craftsman Tool & Mold Co.

High Ridge Partners (only has information through 2015)

Stephens Plumbing & Heating Inc.

Plitek LLC

Interpro Translation Solutions

Advanced Data Technologies Inc.

Gallagher Corporation

Nagel Trucking & Materials Inc (Axle Equipment)

Cambium Networks

Palos Sports

Welding Industrial Supply

Oak Lawn Toyota

Motivation Excellence

Admiral Heating & Ventilating, Inc.

Great Lakes Medicaid

Global Material Technologies

BST Pro Mark Inc

C Cretors

International Sanitary Supply Assoc Inc.

RPS Engineering

Elenco Electronics

Reebie Storage & Moving Co. Inc.

Chicago Backflow

WM W Meyer & Sons Inc

Midtronics

American Association of Insurance Services

Action Electric Sales

Digital Check Corp.

Hitzeman Funeral Home

Wickland-Zulawski & Associates

Mid-west Neon Supply Co

The Rubicon Group Limited

The Quarasan Group

Mowery & Schoenfeld LLC

Rico Industries

Mackay & Co.

Knight Partners LLC

Salco Products Inc.

The Cary Co

Thoma Bravo

Antarctic Mechanical Services

The Toms-Price Co

Belman Melcor LLC

Progressive Components International Corp.

ACC Industries

Benetech Inc.

Qualitas Manufacturing, Inc.

Urban Innovations

Focal Point LLC

Keystone Aniline Corp.

Automatic Feeder Co Inc.

Krenzien Krenzien & Associates

The Claro Group LLC

Platt Luggage

Metalloy Co

The Stoelting Co

Robert J. Sheehy & Sons Funeral Home

Chief Enterprises

Executive Construction

Northern Builders

Eckenhoff Saunders Architects

Vorne Industries

North American Signal Co.

Tukaiz LLC

Delta Engineering Plan

Comgraphics

Ultratech Inc.

Ron Tirapelli Ford Inc.

Hartz Construction

La-Co Industries

Continental Electrical Construction

The Allant Group

La Marche Mfg. Co.

Halsey Drug Co., Inc. (now Acura Pharmaceuticals)

Sign Works Inc

Etymotic Research Inc

United Engravers

Channer Corp

B & K Equipment Co, Inc.

Connelly Electric Co

Inland Fastener

STR Partners

Joliet Avionics

Apollo Colors

Superior Exhibits & Design Inc

Evans Food Products Co

Evenhouse & Co PC

TT Technologies Inc

JST Corp

Jennings Realty

Weldstar Company

Thelen Sand & Gravel Inc.

Revere Electric Supply

Meccon Industries

Optimus Inc.

Association for Women’s Health Care Ltd.

Mallof Abruzino & Nash Marketing Inc

Exequity LLP

Olsson Roofing

G & O Thermal Supply Co.

Aztech Engineering

Serac, Inc.

Waterstone Management Group

Harbour Contractors, Inc.

Schuyler Roche PC

The Sidwell Co.

Bowman Barrett & Associates, Inc.

Topel Forman LLC

Iga, Inc.

Mill Specialties Inc

The Pate Co

Food & Paper Supply Co

Schiele Graphics

Kaluzny Bros Inc.

Simpson Technologies Corp.

Star Inc.

Manhard Consulting, Ltd.

FGM Architects Inc

Lipman Hearne Inc

Holabird & Root

Wineberg Solheim Howell & Shain PC

Engis Corp

Casey Products Inc

Comprehensive Marketing, Inc.

Single Source Inc.

Hawk Electronics

J/B Industries

Crane Construction Co Inc

Homewood Disposal Service

Storck USA LP

International Airport Centers LLC

Pasquesi Inc

US Trailer Parts & Supply Inc

Hoffman Transportation

Cougle Commission Co

Voss Belting & Speciality Co., Inc.

Treasury Strategies, Inc.

Christian Communications of Chicagoland

Denali Capital LLC/Now Resource One

Tallman Equipment Co Inc

Standard Equipment Co

Heritage Wine Cellars Ltd

Chicago Switchboard Co

Cunningham Meyer and Vedrine PC

Lechler Inc & Subsidiaries

National Van Lines

Gregga Jordan Smieszny Inc

Strube Celery & Vegetable Co

Authentify

Stone Design

Ironwood Industries

Zacks Investment Research

Kempler Industries

Institute of Real Estate Management

Carolina Wholesale Office Machine Co Inc (Also known as Arlington Industries)

Outlook Marketing Services

Garveys Office Products Inc

TA Cummings Jr Co Inc

Jamerson & Bauwens Electrical Contractors Inc

Lake Capital Management LLC

Quinlan & Fabish Music Co

Itentive

Resource Management Ent Inc

Illinois Wholesale Cash Register

Belvedere Trading LLC

St. Charles Trading

Gemco Roofing and Bldg Supply

II in One Contractors

Mega Circuit

Anasco

Active Glass Co Inc

Donald Gaddis Co Inc

Forming Concepts

First Environmental Laboratories

Ray Sagan & Sons Inc

Harris Steel

Mcgrath-Colosimo Ltd

K & M Printing Co Inc

Custom Data Processing

Adelphi Enterprises Limited Partnership DBA Bredemann Lexus

First Family, Inc. DBA Bredemann Chevrolet, Inc.

P-K Tool & Manufacturing Co

Garoon

Welch Bros

Computer Projects of IL

Computer Aided Technology, Inc

Berglund Construction

New Metal Crafts

ME Fields

CTM, Ltd.

Leasing Associates of Barrington

National Roofing Contractors Assoc

Corporate Concepts

Arlington Industries

BE Atlas

Fujikawa Johnson Gobel Architects

Edon Construction

Camelot Paper

Quad Plus, LLC

Raco Industrial Corp

Chicago Scenic Studios

Spartanics

Harting, Inc.

Hart Travers & Associates, Inc

Tox-Pressotechnik

Capsonic Group LLC

Royal Management Corp.

Spectra-Tech, Inc.

Ray Sagan & Sons

Haapanen Bros.

Donohue, Brown, Mathewson, & Smyth (law firm)

AJ Antunes

Bullock Logan & Associates

Bird-X

GDHWD & Eberle, Inc.

The Visual Pak Companies

Interior Alterations

Directions, Inc.

Central Sod Farms

Poli-film America

Gamma Technologies

Komar Screw

Genesis Group

Calumet Carton

Chicago Cutting Die Co

Suburban Door Check & Lock Service Inc

Discount Media Products, LLC

Neuco Inc

Fox Valley Fire & Safety Co, Inc.

Tranzact Technologies

Maddock Douglas

Tyler Lane Construction

Porter Supply Co Inc

Omnibus Productions

Morton Grove Supply

Mah Machine

DM Merchandising

James J Benes & Associates, Inc.

Reliance Orthodontic Products, Inc.

Conway Import Co. Inc.

Essex Electro Engineers

Gallagher Asphalt Corp.

Metalstamp, Inc.

Brandenburg Industrial Service

Henricksen & Co., Inc.

Why Most 401(k) Plans Should be Abolished

401(k) plans are seen as a competitive benefit to employees that supposedly enhances the compensation package, but the truth is often just the opposite.  As I have explained before, every dollar that employers contribute in the form of matching or profit sharing contributions could have otherwise been paid out as a bonus.  While the tax deferral brought about by forced savings might seem like a good idea, the unnecessarily high fees that most participants incur often outweigh the advantage of the tax deferral.  Furthermore, offering a retirement plan has a litany of compliance requirements, which take time and resources (both financial and non-financial) away from running the business.

But perhaps the most compelling reason has to do with inadequate employer and employee participation (this is the case for most plans I see), as the main advantage of company sponsored plans is the ability to defer significantly more than what could otherwise have been contributed to an IRA, which currently has annual limits of $5,500 plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution for those over 50.  If an employee is only contributing $2,000 annually and the employer puts in another $500, for example, that $2,500 doesn’t even come close to the IRA limit, yet in many cases, the employee could have purchased the same funds available in the company sponsored plan at a lower price because IRAs don’t have record keeping, administration, or custodial fees (low cost index funds are a prime example).  In addition, financial advisors usually get paid from participants’ accounts regardless of whether or not the participant uses the advisors’ services, whereas the only way for an advisor to get paid from an IRA is to come to an agreement with that individual.  If employers are worried that their employees may not make the effort to contribute to an IRA, they can still hire a financial advisor to educate their employees.  In most cases, this solution makes far more sense, but employers rarely take the time to think about why they even have a plan, usually because they are too busy running their business, and the advisors, administrators, and record keepers are too busy extracting money from the participants’ accounts to tell their clients that they aren’t adding enough value to justify keeping the plan.

Granted, in some instances, highly compensated employees will not be able to receive a deduction (or only a partial deduction) for traditional IRA contributions and may not be able to contribute to a Roth IRA due to their income, but they can still save as much as they want in a taxable account.  If they invest in low cost, tax efficient, passively managed funds as they should, then giving up the tax deferral will be far less costly than investing in less tax efficient investments such as actively managed funds.

Some employers may object to terminating the plan because of outstanding loans, but this claim is erroneous due to the fact that employees can simply roll over the outstanding balance into an IRA.  As it states on the IRS website:

“Plan sponsors may require an employee to repay the full outstanding balance of a loan if he or she terminates employment or if the plan is terminated. If the employee is unable to repay the loan, then the employer will treat it as a distribution and report it to the IRS on Form 1099-R. The employee can avoid the immediate income tax consequences by rolling over all or part of the loan’s outstanding balance to an IRA or eligible retirement plan by the due date (including extensions) for filing the Federal income tax return for the year in which the loan is treated as a distribution. This rollover is reported on Form 5498.”

 

 

Thoughts on Constructing a Fund Line-up and Why I Don’t Recommend Actively Managed Funds

While this headline seems to suggest where I fall on the Active vs. Passive Debate, I actually I don’t take a side and find the debate woefully incomplete when it comes to thoroughly discussing how to properly construct a fund line-up for group retirement plans.  A more accurate title should be “The Simplicity vs. Complexity Debate” because this dichotomy truly gets at the heart of the question on how employers should set up retirement plans that benefit plan participants rather than solely the service providers.

Let’s start with the ideal number of investment options.  Chris Carosa, author, journalist, investment adviser, and chief contributing editor of Fiduciary News wrote a fantastic three part series to help answer this question.  I can summarize as follows:

  1.  Service providers can assess greater fees based having more investment options.
  2.  Too many choices confuses participants, causing them to split their dollars evenly among several funds, creating a portfolio similar to a low cost index fund, yet much more expensive.
  3.  Too many choices adversely affects participation rates and leads to sub-optimal decisions.
  4.  Retirement plans ideally should have no more than 10 investment options.
  5.  Limited choices gives participants greater satisfaction.

I would also add that I typically see at least 15 investment options in plans I review, and often more.  And in each case, I have seen that most of these investments have a high degree of correlation, which is defined as:

“a statistic that measures the degree to which two securities move in relation to each other.”

Consequently, because participants tend to spread their money out throughout different funds which are often actively managed, likely because they believe that doing so creates greater diversification, they have a false sense of security.  On the contrary, they could actually achieve an extremely similar portfolio with greater diversification and fewer funds (not to mention far lower costs!), as exemplified by the Schwab Total Stock Market Index Fund (SWTSX) which holds 2,423 securities and costs 0.03% and the Schwab International Market Index Fund (SWISX) which holds 948 securities and costs 0.06%.  If participants knew they could spread their money out throughout over 3,000 companies while incurring minimal costs with only two funds, they would likely make different decisions.

From an employer standpoint, simplicity makes sense from a compliance perspective because it’s easier to construct an investment policy statement (a written description of a plan’s investment-related decision-making process) that employers can consistently follow.  I have explained more in a previous post.

Financial advisors thrive on adding additional and unnecessary complexity as well as keeping employers in the dark about simpler, lower cost options because most if not all of their value proposition hinges upon selecting and monitoring the funds that will continue to outperform the market.  Granted, as Chris Carosa has also pointed out,

There you have it. In short, this one paper (Broker Incentives and Mutual Fund Market Segmentation), perhaps not as well read as it should be, almost accidentally seals the deal for the fiduciary standard, exposes the conflict-of-interest created by 12b-1 fees and, dare we say, touches the forbidden third rail of all investment research: it shows – within the direct-sold fund channel – index funds have no inherent advantage over actively managed funds (and suggests past studies may have reached opposite conclusion by over-weighing the impact of broker-sold funds); thus, adding another nail to the coffin in the all-too-often repeated misconception that passive consistently outperforms active.

So yes, lower costs for the funds don’t matter if you are comparing direct sold funds to index funds, but because this same paper “concludes direct-sold mutual funds (including institutional funds) outperform broker-sold mutual funds by 1%”, it is clear that fund costs DO matter if they are sold their brokers.  And yet, the registered investment advisors who recommend a litany of actively managed funds will charge more for the additional work of selecting and monitoring a more complex line-up which has no  inherent advantage over comparable index funds.

Carosa willingly admits, however, in his book “Hey! What’s My Number” that the primary questions that influence an investor’s wealth include:  when to start saving, how much to save, and when to retire – all of which a good behavioral coach can help effectively answer throughout an investor’s lifetime.

He also cites a study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College which states:

“Assuming a CRRA (coefficient of relative risk aversion) of 5, the amount required to compensate a household for a retaining a typical portfolio (where 36 percent of assets are invested in equities) rather than switching to an optimal portfolio allocation (where 51 percent of assets are invested in equities), is $5,600, or approximately the additional amount the household would earn if it delayed retirement by one month.  In contrast, when the comparison is between a typical portfolio and an all-stock portfolio, the household is better off by approximately $3,600, or under one month’s salary.  That is, an all-stock portfolio is even more sub-optimal than the typical conservative portfolio.  The key message, however, is that the dollar amounts are small, suggesting that asset allocation is relatively unimportant for the typical risk-averse household.  Even if the household is less risk-averse (CRRA equals 2), the story is similar.  In this case, as shown in Table 10, the optimal portfolio is all in stocks.  The cost of retaining a typical portfolio (57 percent in equities), rather than switching to an optimal portfolio (100 percent in equities), is $25,700, or just over four months’ salary.  As the optimal portfolio is 100 percent in equities, the cost of retaining a typical portfolio relative to an all-stock portfolio is also $25,700.  In short, regardless of the degree of risk aversion, asset allocation is relatively unimportant for the typical household.”

My Value Proposition pages of my website providers a fuller account, but in summary, retirement plans simply need to have a few low cost index funds and no more than 10 funds in total.  Any plan more complicated than what I have stated aims to benefit the service providers at the expense of plan participants.

 

 

 

 

It’s Easier to Fool People Than to Convince Them They Have Been Fooled

Some attribute this quote to Mark Twain, although no proof exists.  Whoever the source, this person possessed great insight into the human condition.  The retirement plan industry serves as an ideal example.  To explain, I have had thousands of conversations with business owners, chief financial officers, controllers, and human resources directors who oversee their organization’s retirement plans.  In almost all cases, when I raise concerns about the fact that participant service fees have continued to increase without these participants receiving any additional services in return and are completely divorced from the services provided, the responses generally go like this:

  1.  We have reviewed everything and we’re fine.
  2.  We have reviewed everything and we’re in line with everyone else.
  3.  Our advisor takes care of all that.

In spite of me pointing out that I can see years worth of exorbitant service fees shown on their publicly available tax forms, these plan sponsors don’t seem to care.  Even when I make it clear that I am not looking to sell my services to them, but rather simply explain to them how they can put a stop to these unfair service and fee arrangements, they reply that they are not interested in my services.

Here are some observations about human behavior I can now make as a result of these conversations.  People:

  1.  Generally do not want to admit they don’t know about information vital to fulfilling their job responsibilities.
  2. Assume that if they never heard this information, it must not be true.  Otherwise, they would have already known about it.
  3.  Would rather see plan participants lose enormous amounts of money (including their own!) and ignore their fiduciary duties than admit to their co-workers they don’t know something and/or do any extra work.
  4.  Value longstanding relationships more than money and are less likely to scrutinize the value of relationships the longer they have been in place and the closer they are (i.e. friends and family members).

The recent fee disclosure rules and fiduciary standard purport to help protect the interests of plan participants.  But as usual, bureaucrats have no understanding of the industry they are controlling regulating and give little thought to the consequences of these mandatory solutions.  Plan sponsors already view the retirement plan as a back burner item because it has no effect on revenue, so they are already looking for any excuse to spend as little time as possible monitoring the retirement plan.  Now that brokers will be considered fiduciaries who have a legal obligation to “act in the best interests of the client”, plan sponsors will be even less likely to scrutinize their offering than before.

Our compulsory public school system (private schools aren’t much different in their philosophy) stresses rigid adherence to centrally imposed guidelines and discourages us from delving deeper into a subject beyond what it requires.  Our system has long taught use to move on to the next subject once we have displayed minimum competency as defined by the state.  These standards don’t require delving deeply into a subject or asking any substantive questions that demonstrate an ability and desire to apply these questions to every day life.  So after years of inculcating this mindset into children, what happens to us as adults?  The retirement plan industry represents a frightening example in which we now have people with little or no financial skills who the state has taught not to ask probing questions overseeing 6.8 trillion of people’s money.  We don’t need more mandates or committees to solve this problem that this kind of thinking has helped to promote.

 

 

 

John Oliver’s Commentary on the Retirement Industry

One of the best ways to get people’s attention is satire, and for this reason, John Oliver did the American public a great service by comically pointing out the insanity of the retirement plan industry.  As of this date, it has nearly 5 million views, so apparently he has reached quite a few people.  It felt refreshing to hear someone with such a large audience echo what I have been speaking and writing about for so long:  the retirement plan industry is a giant ripoff!  I especially like how he shed light on annuities which I have written about in a previous post.  I also like the analogy he made with termites, describing as tiny and barely noticeable much like retirement fees that can eat away at your future.

Now maybe people won’t be intimidated to ask basic questions like:

  1.  How do financial advisors get paid?
  2.  What do all the job titles in the retirement industry really mean?
  3.  Should I be paying for services in my retirement plan that I never use?
  4.  How much will all of my service fees cost me over my lifetime?
  5.  And what exactly do all of the service fees in my retirement plan really include?

While John Oliver helped stimulate these kinds of questions (not an easy task when communicating with a mass audience), he could have gone further.  For example, he touted the importance of the fiduciary designation, but given the complexity of the fiduciary rule, he could have warned consumers that simply being a fiduciary does not guarantee that advisors will act in the best interests of plan participants as advisors can recommend record keepers like John Hancock – the same provider that Oliver criticized and decided to get rid of because of their service fees – yet still not violate their fiduciary status.  Furthermore, advisors acting in a “fiduciary capacity” can still charge based on a percentage of plan assets, often resulting in advisory fees completely disproportionate to the level of services provided that still create conflicts of interest.

And while he does a good job pointing out the fact that actively managed funds sold through brokers do not consistently outperform the market, it would have been more helpful if he focused on industry’s addiction to asset-based fees and the retirement plan service providers’ collective desire to deliberately make plans more complicated than necessary in order to sell unnecessary additional services.

Maybe John Oliver will read this blog and consult me if he does a follow up program!

 

Better Call Saul: Maybe He Needs to Expose the Retirement Plan Industry’s Practices Too

In the first season of Better Call Saul, Jimmy visits a retirement home and learns that the management company has been systematically and massively overcharging their residents for various items like Kleenex where they have to pay upwards of $8 per box.  He became suspicious when looking at one of the resident’s bills and seeing that it was written in such small print that it was clear the management company didn’t want the residents to understand the details of their scam.  Upon uncovering these misdeeds, Jimmy gathers evidence in order to bring this company to trial where he and his brother Chuck seek $20 million in damages due to racketeering, which is defined as:

“A service that is fraudulently offered to solve a problem, such as for a problem that does not actually exist, that will not be put into effect, or that would not otherwise exist if the racket did not exist.  Conducting a racket is racketeering.  Particularly, the potential problem may be caused by the same party that offers to solve it, although that fact may be concealed, with the specific intent to engender continual patronage for this party.  An archetype is the protection racket, wherein a person or group indicates that they could protect a store from potential damage, damage that the same person or group would otherwise inflict, while the correlation of threat and protection may be more or less deniably veiled, distinguishing it from the more direct act of extortion.”

In the case of the retirement plan industry, it’s more than just one company conducting a racket.  It’s a network of large retirement plan service providers, attorneys, and government regulators who continue to tout the importance of the survival and growth of their industry in order to solve our “retirement crisis” that they have all played a major role in creating so they can further their own careers.  Similarly, they all recently agreed on the increased “transparency” that would be brought about by a “fee disclosure” law that not surprisingly turned out to be so convoluted that nobody has been able to fully understand what was disclosed nor has anyone been able to understand what services they are actually paying for or if these service fees are reasonable in light of the services they are using.  If it was clear that retirement plan advisors get paid comparable to brain surgeons, perhaps a light bulb would go on in the heads of business owners and executives that might motivate them to ask this one basic question:  “How much money in HARD DOLLARS have retirement plan participants been paying for each service every year?”  Shockingly, many of these uninformed plan sponsors include law firms, banks, and accounting firms – the very service professionals we rely on to give us advice!

There have been several programs put on by NPR, Bloomberg TV News, 60 Minutes, and PBS Frontline attempting to expose how the retirement plan industry operates.  However, none of them have had any effect, likely because even these programs haven’t delved deeply enough into how intertwined each of the industry players truly are.  Until enough people are able to peel back all the layers and become outraged at what is happening to our money, nothing of any significance will change.