Sunday, June 22, 2008

'Swimming' Pool

Having just spent most of the past week in Chicago at our annual Plan Designs conference (bigger and better than ever, I might add!), my head is still swimming with new ideas, modifications of existing “assumptions,” and the occasional validation of the “tried and true.”

I’m dedicating this week’s IMHO to a rough summary of some notes I took during that time (in some cases, I have “refined” statements to be more declarative than they were presented to make a stronger point):

• A prudent process helps you win in court; a good result keeps you out of court in the first place.

• Lots of people have already decided who they are going to vote for in November.

• Automatic enrollment (still) isn’t for everyone.

• Some people who nod their head knowingly when you start talking about glide paths don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

• In an era where asset-allocation solutions dominate, you’re better off picking the best target-date fund(s)—and then finding a recordkeeper that can/will accommodate that selection.

• Target-date fund benchmarks are available—but they incorporate certain beliefs/assumptions on the part of the index maker (though that’s not exactly radical, IMHO. The S&P 500 also incorporates certain beliefs/assumptions in its composition).

• Nobody (except perhaps the lawyers who wrote them and the regulators that mandated them) is actually reading all these participant notices.

• We’re getting ready to know more about fees charged than some ever thought possible—then, we’re going to have to be taught what to do about what we (now) know.

• Lots of plan sponsors are “OK” with the fees they are paying—but they aren’t sure that they are “reasonable.”

• Retirement income is an “easy” sell, but still a tough “buy.”

• Mentioning that you’re thinking about beginning a provider search (even if you’re not) is an easy way to gain a quick fee/service concession.

• Tax breaks associated with tax-deferred savings and employer-sponsored health care add up to a lot of money—and some in Washington want to spend that money other ways.

• More people (still) seem to be worried about the 25 basis points being split between the recordkeeper/TPA and adviser than the 80 basis points being spent on investment management.

• There is an inherent mismatch when revenues are based on something (assets) that has very little correlation with costs (plan structure and participant count).

• Most plan sponsors still have a better chance of being struck by a meteor than being sued by a plan participant.

- Nevin E. Adams, JD

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