Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanks Giving - A Retirement Plan Professional's List

Thanksgiving has been called a “uniquely American” holiday, and one on which it seems fitting to reflect on all for which we should be thankful.

Here’s my 2014 list:

I’m thankful that retirement plan coverage and participation is up, if slightly, and that there seems to be a expanding national dialogue about how to expand that.

I’m thankful that a growing number of policy makers are willing to admit that the “deferred” nature of 401(k) tax preferences are, in fact, different from the permanent forbearance of other tax preferences — even if the governmental accountants and academics remain oblivious.

I’m thankful that so many employers offer access to a retirement plan in the workplace — and that so many workers, given an opportunity to participate, do.

I’m thankful that most workers defaulted into retirement savings programs tend to remain there — and that there are mechanisms in place to help them save and invest better than they might otherwise.

I’m thankful that those who regulate our industry continue to seek the input of those in the industry — and that so many in our industry, particularly those among our membership, take the time and energy to provide that input.

I’m thankful that participants, by and large, continue to hang in there with their commitment to retirement savings, despite lingering economic uncertainty, and competing interests, such as rising health care costs.

I’m thankful for objective research that validates the positive impact that committed planning and preparation for retirement makes.

I’m thankful for the perspectives that remind us that the “golden age” of pensions wasn’t. And that allow us to appreciate the strengths of the current system, even as we work to improve it.

I’m thankful that the prospects of fee disclosure seem to have made the realities less of a shock than might otherwise have been the case for some.

I’m thankful that fewer seem to think that their 401(k) is free – though more than a bit concerned that some (including, according to surveys, some plan sponsors) still do.

I’m thankful that plan design enhancements such as automatic enrollment, contribution acceleration, and qualified default investment alternatives continue to be adopted — and hopeful that more plan sponsors will see fit to extend those advantages to their existing workers as well as their new hires.

I’m thankful for qualified default investment alternatives (QDIA) that make it easy for participants to create well-diversified and regularly rebalanced investment portfolios — and for the thoughtful review of those options by prudent plan fiduciaries.

I’m thankful that the “plot” to kill the 401(k) … (still) hasn’t …

I’m thankful, in this anniversary year, for the foresight of those who brought ERISA into being — and for all who have, in the subsequent 40 years, worked to make it better through legislation, regulation and interpretation.

I’m thankful for the team here at NAPA, and for the strength, commitment and diversity of the membership. I’m thankful to be part of a growing organization in an important industry at a critical time. I’m thankful to be able, in some small way, to make a difference on a daily basis.

I'm thankful for the warmth with which readers and members, both old and new, have embraced me, and the work we do here. I'm thankful for all of you who have supported — and I hope benefited from — our various conferences, education programs and communications throughout the year. I’m thankful for the constant — and enthusiastic — support of our advertisers.

But most of all, I’m once again thankful for the unconditional love and patience of my family, the camaraderie of dear friends and colleagues, the opportunity to write and share these thoughts — and for the ongoing support and appreciation of readers like you.
Here’s wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving!
- Nevin E. Adams, JD 

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