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Hosting an industry conference? Ask us about including it in this ticker? Trending Topics for ERISA Plan Sponsors: Week Ending 1/22/16 Trending Topics for ERISA Plan Sponsors: Week Ending 1/22/16
January 25
00:03 2016

Welcome to Trending Topics. Each Monday, we’ll give you a quick synopsis of the major news events and trends impacting ERISA plan sponsors, 401k fiduciaries and those in the business of supporting these fine folks. If you smile when you read these entertaining snippets, well, that’s the idea. If you think we’re missing something important, then please let us know. But, note this well, we avoid press releases masquerading as news stories (even though they might be reported by journalists) as well as mass media pabulum that merely mouths investment myths and mistakes. “When everybody’s a fiduciary…  no one is.”

FiduciaryNews Lead Story:
Exclusive Interview with Roger Wohlner,” (, January 20, 2016)

Compliance – The War on The State Begins in Earnest:
The industry has been asleep at the switch, busying itself with its own civil war while Big Brother’s nose has been slowly seeping into the private retirement plan marketplace’s tent. Things may be beginning to change, though. With the poor management performance of the various governments when it comes to handling their own public employee retirement plans, this should be like shooting fish in a barrel.
Plan sponsors concerned about ERISA compliance,” (BenefitsPro, January 15, 2016) When the personal fiduciary liability risks associated with something that at best can be likened to a hobby (versus your real job), than you know we have a regulatory problem.
Cities, states could suffer friction over state unfunded pension liabilities,” (BenefitsPro, January 18, 2016) And we think it’s a good idea for states to take on private retirement accounts why?
Some People Just Shouldn’t Save For Retirement,” (Forbes, January 18, 2016) Oops! Turns out the government data used to support the “retirement crisis” meme (and cited in a New York Times op-ed in support of Bernie Sanders Social Security plan) was either misleading or just plain wrong. Read about it here.
SIFMA, ICI Balk at DOL’s State-Run Retirement Plan,” (ThinkAdvisor, January 20, 2016) While some say they made self-serving arguments in the fiduciary debate, these groups are asking the right questions on this issue.

Fiduciary – “Here We Come…”:
The anticipation will be nothing compared to the monkeying around that we’ll see from the usual Washington suspects once the actual rule is released.
DOL poised to advance final fiduciary rule,” (InvestmentNews, January 20, 2016) It’s coming!
Fiduciary Rule Being Rushed to White House, Report Says,” (Financial Planning, January 20, 2016) Even with the rush, the earliest implementation date is November 2016.
Recent class-action surge ups the ante for 401k advice,” (InvestmentNews, January 21, 2016) A great overview of what the real cost of ignoring one’s fiduciary duty is.
Roskam anticipates House approval of bill to stop DOL fiduciary rule,” (InvestmentNews, January 21, 2016) Point, meet counter point.
Fiduciary Standards: The Way It Shouldn’t Be,” (Financial Planning, January 21, 2016) An entertaining piece.

Fees – Heading the DOL Off at the Pass:
The industry fears the DOL’s new Fiduciary Rule will change the way they can collect fees. If you’ve read between the lines in the above sections, you’ll know that ship has already sailed.
Before DOL Fiduciary Rule Change, Time to Act on Fees Is Now,” (January Issue, Research Magazine) What service providers are considering in light of the impending DOL Fiduciary Rule.

Investments – Zigging when you Should be Zagging:
We can never know when the market will hit its high or reach its low, but we can always have a pretty good idea when either happens. When your barber starts giving you stock tips, it’s time to sell. When he starts talking about the combination lock he’s bought for his mattress, it’s time to buy.
Should I invest my nest egg like Warren Buffett recommends?” (CNN, January 13, 2016) Here’s exactly what’s wrong with the investment industry and with lazy mainstream media outlets. To paraphrase Einstein, “God does not play dice with your retirement portfolio.” There’s no need to make up the data. The historical record speaks for itself. If you don’t trust the historical record, the onus is on you to explain your actions if they end up being detrimental to the portfolio. Just because you can’t use past results to guarantee future results, ignoring past results is just as imprudent.
Yes, ignore that ‘sell everything’ call,” (MarketWatch, January 14, 2016) This article won’t tell you anything you don’t already know, but it’s worthy just for the picture they placed with it (especially if you’re a classic movie fan).
Is your 401k safe when the market tanks?” (CNBC, January 14, 2016) Another “don’t sell” theme, which is good, but the article ends with the same-old tired “age-based asset allocation” recommendations, which is bad.
Retirement saving strategies: Should you target your risk or your date?” (BenefitsPro, January 20, 2016) There seems to be a growing consensus as to the limits of target date funds – and this might have fiduciary implications.
How to diversify your retirement income portfolio,” (CBS News, January 20, 2016) Looks like a dose of old school thinking.
This Piece of Conventional Wisdom Saved Me a Bundle,” (Money, January 20, 2016) The author calls this “conventional wisdom.” The pros call it a “rookie mistake.” Bottom-line: Never place assets assigned to short-term goals into long-term investments.

Major Plan Sponsor Moves and News:
What are other plan sponsors and fiduciaries doing with their plans? And how are participants responding? The latest in legal proceedings involving plan sponsors and fiduciaries.
Roth vs. traditional 401k plans: What to consider for clients,” (InvestmentNews, January 14, 2016)
Another massive year in ERISA settlements,” (BenefitsPro, January 19, 2016)
Stable value funds, retirement draw-down strategies cited as 2016 trends,” (Benefit News, January 19, 2016)
PSCA survey: retirement plan deferral rates at all-time high,” (BenefitsPro, January 19, 2016)
Companies miss the mark on retirement communications,” (Benefit News, January 19, 2016)
Kitces: Better Strategies for Partial Roth Conversion and Recharacterization,” (OnWallStreet, January 19, 2016)
Stock-drop claim against JP Morgan dismissed,” (BenefitsPro, January 19, 2016)
Report shows disparities in access to retirement benefits,” (Benefit News, January 21, 2016)

Trends and Truths for Retirement Savers:
If you’re a retirement plan fiduciary – whether a plan sponsor or a financial professional, don’t you think it’s a good idea to keep up on the topics retirement savers are most interested in? That’s what the media tries to do. Here’s what they think is on the mind of the people saving for retirement.
When making retirement choices, prepare to live longer,” (MarketWatch, January 14, 2016)
The ‘Retirement Crisis’ Scare: Over-Saving,” (Forbes, January 14, 2016)
Do-it-yourself retirement planning for the self-employed,” (CNBC, January 18, 2016)
How to Navigate Social Security and Optimize Your Benefits,” (US News, January 18, 2016)
Saving for retirement? What to watch out for in 2016,” (MarketWatch, January 19, 2016)
Retired, But Working,” (Wealth Management, January 19, 2016)
6 retirement-planning mistakes to avoid,” (MarketWatch, January 19, 2016)
A new approach to do-it-yourself retirement planning,” (CBS News, January 19, 2016)
How Can Retirees Thrive During Volatility? Patience is Key,” (Forbes, January 20, 2016)
9 Money Apps to Keep Your Retirement Planning on Track,” (US News, January 20, 2016)
Why Retirees Need To Stop Writing Checks To Charities,” (Forbes, January 20, 2016)
How to get guaranteed retirement income for life,” (CNN, January 20, 2016)
Inheriting a Roth IRA isn’t always best news,” (USA Today, January 20, 2016)
Finally, A Reliable Path For Retirees to Donate to Charity,” (Wealth Management, January 21, 2016)

Wisdom from Some of Our Favorite Blogs:
Proskauer’s ERISA Practice Center Blog: Defined Benefit Plan Participant’s Action Mooted by ERISA Plan’s Improved Financial Condition |
Scholarly Financial Planner: Part 8, Equity Indexed Annuity Due Diligence and Compensation Practices (“Who Moved My Cheese” Series – The Future of Financial Advice) |
Business of Benefits: Tax Code Will Permit Merger of 403(b) and 401(a) Church Plans |
Squared Away Blog: Empty-Nesters Aren’t Saving Enough |
RetirementRevised: Retired, but working? How it impacts your financial plan |
Proskauer’s ERISA Practice Center Blog: Eighth Circuit Holds Service Provider Is Not A Plan Fiduciary In Excessive Fee Case |
Scholarly Financial Planner: 11 Questions from Readers on the Implications of Fiduciary for Firms & Advisers (“Who Moved My Cheese” Series) |
Behavior Gap: Learn How to Say No So You Can Say a Bigger Yes |
Scholarly Financial Planner: Part 9: Fiduciary’s Duty of Care for QRP Rollovers to IRAs (“Who Moved My Cheese” Series) |

Hot Tips from Popular Web Resources:
Kiplinger: Protection for Fixed Annuities |
NAPA Net: ARA Comments on DOL’s Proposal on State-Run Savings Plans |
NAPA Net: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Plan Sponsors |
NAPA Net: DB Shift to DC: A Game of Whack-a-Mole? |
The Motley Fool: How to Find Previous 401k Accounts |
NAPA Net: Revenue-Sharing Suit Alleges Much, Specifies Little |
NAPA Net: What’s Had the Biggest Impact on DC Plan Management? |
NAPA Net: The Where’s and Why’s of Retirement Plan Access |
Morningstar: Break These Financial Habits in 2016 |
NAPA Net: OMB Could Get Fiduciary Regulation Soon |
NAPA Net: What’s Ahead for DC Asset Management? |
NAPA Net: Is This the Year Health and Retirement Converge? |
NAPA Net: Do Proprietary Funds Create a Fiduciary Dilemma? |
NAPA Net: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Retirement Benefits |

Miss anything? Feel free to add a comment below.

About Author

Christopher Carosa, CTFA

Christopher Carosa, CTFA


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