2016 PLAN SPONSOR OF THE YEAR
Public DC

Fulton County, Georgia

FINALIST

HEADQUARTERS: Atlanta, Georgia

TOTAL PLAN ASSET/PARTICIPANTS: $391 million / 4,928 participants

PARTICIPATION RATE: 100%

DEFERRAL RATE:
6% for participant contribution

EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTION: 8% in 401(a)

DEFAULT INVESTMENT: Target Date Funds

EMPLOYER MATCH: Up to an additional 2% employer match in 401(a) for participants contributing to 457(b) Plan

ADDITIONAL PLANS: Closed DB

Sometimes all it takes are a few numbers to identify a top-performing retirement plan. That’s the case with Fulton County, Georgia.

Clearly the defined contribution (DC) retirement benefit programs offered to employees of Fulton County are having strong success. Currently, just under 95% of the Fulton County 401(a) plan participants are on track to replace at least 80% of their income at retirement—a number only projected to get stronger over time, according to Tammy E. Goebeler, investment officer for the county’s DC benefits program, which also includes a voluntary 457(b) plan.

Goebeler attributes these strong projected outcomes largely to the power of mandating retirement savings via the 401(a)—and to the on-site participant educational program provided to all employees by the county in recent years. Working with third-party vendors, the county has contracted a full-time onsite educational specialist that each employee is required to meet with during new hire orientation for purposes of enrollment and assisting with the initial asset allocation decisions, should the individual choose to forego the qualified default investment alternative (QDIA).

“Additionally, the educational specialist meets with plan participants ongoing throughout their career to ensure employees understand the plan and for periodic review of their asset allocation. This helps ensure they rebalance based on their age and risk tolerance as they move throughout their career towards retirement,” Goebeler explains. “In a nutshell, the county has really embraced the idea that well-timed advice can make all the difference between retirement readiness and retirement disappointment.”

The education program is even more impressive given that the county, geographically speaking, is the largest east of the Mississippi. Given the size of Fulton County, the DC plans cover a very diverse workforce of 4,500 fire, police, library, finance, and many other types of government workers. These employees are spread out across 13 cities and smaller communities covering 500-plus square miles, working in dozens if not hundreds of diverse environments.

Kurt Nesheim, relationship manager with the plan’s recordkeeper, MassMutual, cites Goebeler for her personal dedication to the Fulton County retirement program. She has personally ensured plan participants working varying shifts in health clinics, tax offices, courts, libraries, parks, fire stations, and police stations throughout the county all get ample opportunity to work one-on-one with the education specialist, for example. She has also helped to modernize the investment approach, drawing on previous experience in the private sector and forming a great example for other counties to follow.

“Tammy has created a theme and professional custom look to represent the county, and she loves to share it with her participants,” Nesheim concludes. “We are pleased to say that any county building you visit will contain some type of retirement planning touch point linked to the retirement benefit programs.” —John Manganaro

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