Garin Danner
Human Resources Director
  • Total Plan Assets
    $41MM
  • Number of Participants
    461 (includes 381 active)
  • Participation Rate
    97%
  • Average Deferral Rate
    9.1%
  • Default Deferral Rate
    6%
  • Default Investment
    Vanguard Target Retirement Fund
  • Automatic Enrollment
  • Automatic Escalation
  • Provider(s)
    Charles Schwab; ForUsAll Advisors
  • Financial Wellness Educator(s)
    ForUsAll Advisors, Charles Schwab Learning Center
  • Employer Contribution
    50% of 6% + possible profit sharing, up to 1%

The company’s adviser works with employees approaching retirement who are behind in their savings, guiding one to increase deferrals from 6% to 20% 10 years before he retired.

the SSI Group wants to make sure employees are able to get a handle on their financial situations in order to pave the way for better retirement readiness. To that end, the sponsor offers an array of advice options for its participants, from free investment advice from the plan’s adviser to a financial wellness offering through its adviser that covers everything from student loan debt to mortgage preparation to retirement income calculations. 

Garin Danner, human resources (HR) director at the health-care financial performance solutions company, in Mobile, Alabama, says he tried out the financial wellness program firsthand to test-drive it for participants. That is, he mapped out all of his retirement to calculate his retirement readiness via a report from ForUsAll, the plan’s adviser and fiduciary for the past 2.5 years. The result was a customized snapshot of how much he would have for retirement up to age 95. 

“So that’s why I can now tell my people, this is something worthwhile [to do],” he says. 

ForUsAll came in as a fiduciary on the plan so it could give advice and not just general counsel, Danner says. The adviser visits twice a year for in-person participant meetings, but participants can also call or email the person any time for advice.

“They’re not restricted to only being able to talk to them a couple times a year,” Danner says. 

The advisory group is working with a “number of our people” who have either a financial predicament they need help with or a savings goal such as paying for college or buying a house, Danner says. The adviser also works with those who are nearing retirement—the average age of employees at The SSI Group is 44—to make sure they’re on track.

“One participant went from contributing 6% to 20% 10 years before retirement because they realized they wouldn’t have remotely enough money otherwise,” Danner recalls.

Danner says participation rates have gone from the high 80s to 97% within the past couple of years. Before this, the average employee deferral was 7%; today, it’s above 9%. Average balances in the plan are now about $95,000. 

Through the help of ForUsAll, the plan also conducted a recordkeeper request for proposals (RFP) and ultimately stayed with Charles Schwab, negotiating lower fees in the process.

Schwab provides retirement and financial wellness education through a multichannel approach, covering everything from budgeting to debt management to estate planning. This year, the recordkeeper—which has worked with SSI since 1997—added quarterly panel discussions and coffee talks to its educational webcast offerings, says Natalie Tahsler, relationship manager, client services at Charles Schwab. The recordkeeper also provides an online learning center, which covers topics such as budgeting, saving and debt reduction.

SSI offers plan design features that aid participants in their retirement readiness journey, such as automatic enrollment and escalation up to 15%. The company matches 50% of the first 6% of compensation, plus a 1% discretionary profit-sharing contribution after a year of service with immediate vesting—a benefit for 19 years. The plan allows loans as well as hardship withdrawals.

“The SSI firm as a whole—they are very forward thinking when it comes to helping their employees reach their retirement goals,” Tahsler says. “They’ve always fostered good engagement from their retirement committee to make good plan design decisions.” Because of this, SSI’s 401(k) plan is very healthy, she says.

As for the future, Danner says, “I just keep looking at what are [the] opportunities out there to make a change to the plan that might make it better and even more competitive than what it is.”

Although SSI is a small company compared with tech counterparts Microsoft and Google, “we’ve got to compete in the market for people,” he says. 

Going forward, the sponsor is also reviewing a possible 401(k) integrated student loan repayment program. Although SSI’s employees don’t have a “dire situation” with student loans at the moment, Danner says, “they are starting to percolate now to the top, [so] we want to get ahead of it before it gets away from us. We’re starting to, as time moves on now, increase the number of Millennials coming into the workforce … and they’re all facing some pretty sizable debts out there from college.”

—Corie Hengst

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