Hosting an industry conference? Ask us about including it in this ticker. Trending Topics for ERISA Plan Sponsors: Week Ending 11/8/19 Trending Topics for ERISA Plan Sponsors: Week Ending 11/8/19
November 11
00:03 2019

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:
How to Address Top Fiduciary Issues for Trade Associations Sponsoring 401k MEPs,” (, November 5, 2019) It appears all but certain the floodgates will soon open wide, unleashing a torrent of trade association sponsored 401k MEPs. If you’re looking for the trigger that will open those floodgates, here’s what you should be paying attention to.

Other Top Stories:
Bring These Three Goals To Your First Day Of Work,” (, November 4, 2019)
Woke and fiduciary spells trouble – Carosa,” (BenefitsPRO, November 6, 2019)
This Is Why Your 401k May Soon Be With Your Local Chamber Of Commerce,” (, November 8, 2019)

Compliance – Catch Me If You Can:
There’s a lot of moving parts right now and it’s difficult to tell what’s going on. Here’s the deal: self-responsibility vs. paternalism. It’s a free will question. Are we free to fail or are we shackled to succeed?
DOL and SEC Weigh New Proxy Voting Standards,” (PLANADVISER, November 4, 2019) Believe it or not, this is an issue for publicly traded companies. Something about an unlevel playing field.
OregonSaves Could Cut National Retirement Savings Deficit 12%, EBRI Says,” (401K Specialist, November 4, 2019) If that’s the case, imagine how much that savings deficit could be cut if the entire industry moved forward aggressively on the 401k MEP.
Two rival experts agree — 401k plans haven’t helped you save enough for retirement,” (Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2019) Well, it’s not the plans, it’s the people.
IRS Seeks to Adjust RMDs for Longer Lives,” (ThinkAdvisor, November 7, 2019) With news reports that life expectancies are growing shorter, is this just another example of regulators being two steps behind?
IRS Proposes Changes to Tables Used in RMD Calculations,” (PLANADVISER, November 7, 2019) In case you missed it the first time.

Fiduciary – And The Answer Is…:
Yeah, no one ever really cared about fiduciary to begin with. It was all a ruse, a marketing scam.

Fees – Oh, The Irony Of It All!:
You gotta smile whenever you see a player hoisted on their own petard.
Recordkeeping Fees Under the Microscope,” (PLANADVISER, November 1, 2019) This certainly took long enough. Long ago recordkeepers saw what advisers were doing and jumped on the asset-based fee bandwagon. But recordkeeping, unlike investment advice, was a transaction-based business (advisers are prohibited from charging transaction fees as that would constitute a fiduciary violation under the self-dealing ban).
There’s a Dark Side to Zero-Cost Investing You Can’t Ignore,” (ThinkAdvisor, November 4, 2019) You can pay me now, or you can pay me later. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
As fees sink, recordkeepers use quality of service to win advisors, sponsors,” (BenefitsPRO, November 5, 2019) Ironically, where once recordkeepers lambasted advisers for being a “commodity,” now they are facing the same criticism.
Fee Compression Is Old News for Recordkeepers, Fund Managers,” (PLANADVISER, November 7, 2019) Wait? You mean after all that excitement it turns out it’s only “old news”?

Investments – Sure, Its’ Great… On Paper!:
There’s a reason why people who roll up their sleeves for a living sneer at people who generate a lot of chalk dust in ivy-covered towers. What works eloquently in theory often becomes a clunker in reality.
The Business Cycle, Geopolitics and Retirement Investing,” (PLANADVISER, November 4, 2019) You may be worried about the U.S. and China trade war, but wait! There’s more!
Why Your Retirement Portfolio Needs Income Growth,” (, November 4, 2019) Well, you don’t just have to view it as income growth.
New Tactics Needed for a Low-Rate World,” (PLANADVISER, November 6, 2019) Hmm, related to the above article?

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.
An IPS ‘Sets’ The Standard,” (PLANADVISER, September/October 2019)
Industries with the Most, Least Financially Stressed Employees,” (401K Specialist, November 1, 2019)
How to Navigate the Missing 401k Participant Playbook,” (401K Specialist, November 1, 2019)
Schlichter: Sponsors ‘on notice’ about using asset-based recordkeeping fees,” | (BenefitsPRO, November 5, 2019)
Attorneys Argue for Stricter Reading of ‘Actual Knowledge’ in ERISA Cases,” (PLANADVISER, November 5, 2019)
Employers still struggle to educate employees about 401k plans,” (BenefitsPRO, November 5, 2019)
Prudential Latest Recordkeeper to Face Self-Dealing ERISA Lawsuit,” (PLANADVISER, November 6, 2019)

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.
Millennials Risk Savings So They Can Buy Their First Home,” (PLANADVISER, September/October 2019)
Is the Retirement ‘Crisis’ Really a Con?” (401K Specialist, November 1, 2019)
Timing is Everything in Retirement Planning,” (401K Specialist, November 1, 2019)
Caught in the middle: Generation X needs to focus on retirement, but isn’t,” (MarketWatch, November 2, 2019)|
401k Investors’ Confidence Declines Sharply,” (Financial Advisor, November 4, 2019)
Expert: Gen X needs ‘11 times more’ in savings for secure retirement,” (Yahoo, November 4, 2019)
Retirement: Planning starts with understanding what you’ll spend,” (USA Today, November 6, 2019)
30 Greatest Threats to Your Retirement,” (Yahoo, November 6, 2019)
Is a pension or a buyout better for retirement,” (Employee Benefit News, November 8, 2019)
How to Avoid Tax Penalties While Spending in Retirement,” (Money and Markets, November 8, 2019)
Avoiding Roth IRA Conversion Tax Traps,” (ThinkAdvisor, November 8, 2019)

Wisdom from Some of Our Favorite Blogs:
The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C. Blog: Don’t let your business become an HR headache |
The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C. Blog: If you’re consistently losing clients, look in the mirror |
The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C. Blog: That last button on your 401k plan |
The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C. Blog: The lesson of Ken Fisher |
The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C. Blog: A useless statistic on Target Date Funds |
The Business of Benefits: Take Note of An Important New Amendment Requirement Buried in New 403(b) Remedial Amendment Period Rules |
Squared Away Blog: 401k Balances are Far Below Potential |
Bird’s Eye View: Splitting An IRA With 72(t) Distributions In Divorce |
Kitces & Carl Ep 20: Is A Fiduciary Requirement Necessary When Acting In Clients’ Best Interests Is Good Business Anyway? |
Fred Reish: Best Interest Standard of Care for Advisors #16 |
Squared Away Blog: A Brighter Future for a Graying Workforce |

Hot Tips from Popular Web Resources:
National Association of Plan Advisors: Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ Plan Taps Retirement Savings |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Why Do You Work With the TPAs You Work With? |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Cerulli: Digital Advice is Helpful, But Don’t Forget the Human Touch |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Some Surprising Findings About the Nation’s Student Loan Burden |
Kiplinger: State Taxes on Retirees Differ by Types of Retirement Income |
National Association of Plan Advisors: ‘Special’ Forces |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Are Retirement Savers Really Facing a Crisis? |
National Association of Plan Advisors: How Do Group Dynamics Affect Plan Governance? |
Morningstar: Yes, RMDs Can Improve Your Portfolio |
The Motley Fool: Ask a Fool: Are IRA Tax Advantages Really That Valuable? |
The Motley Fool: 4 Mistakes That’ll Stunt Your 401k Plan’s Growth |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Case of the Week: A Tale of Two 457(b) Plans |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Industry Leaders Urge Quick Action on SECURE Act |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Understanding the Mindset of Participants Who Take Loans |
The Motley Fool: 4 Reasons Retirement Might Cost More Than You Think |
National Association of Plan Advisors: IRS Contribution, Benefit Limits for 2020 in Detail |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Retirement Industry Facing ‘Greatest Transition Since the Depression’ |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Taking the Stage |
National Association of Plan Advisors: EBRI: Extending OregonSaves Would Slash Retirement Deficits |
The Motley Fool: Workers in These Careers Retire the Earliest, Study Says |
National Association of Plan Advisors: 9th Circuit Passes on Rehearing of ERISA Arbitration Case |
National Association of Plan Advisors: READER POLL: What’s Working With TPAs? |
National Association of Plan Advisors: SEC Assesses Top TDF and MMF Compliance Shortfalls |
National Association of Plan Advisors: Elite 403(b) Advisors Share Tips on Expanding Practice |

Miss anything? Feel free to add a comment below.

About Author

Christopher Carosa, CTFA

Christopher Carosa, CTFA


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