Newsdash Insight on Plan Design & Investment Strategy from PLANSPONSOR
January 5th, 2016
Benefits & Administration
Pension Funded Status Unchanged in 2015
The pension funded status of the nation’s largest corporate plan sponsors finished the year unchanged compared with the end of 2014, due in large part to a rise in interest rates mostly offset by a weak global stock market, according to a new analysis by Towers Watson. The firm estimates the aggregate pension funded status of 413 Fortune 1000 companies reached 82% at the end of 2015—the same as it was at the end of 2014. But, 2016 may be a better year.Read more >
More Participants Understand TDFs
Target-date funds (TDFs) are currently offered by 88% of plan sponsors and utilized by upwards of 64% of participants, due largely to the Pension Protection Act’s (PPA) sanctioning of TDFs as a qualified default investment alternative, according to research from Vanguard. Generally, TDF investors understand how their investments work and say they are familiar with the “outwardly simple, inwardly sophisticated” messaging product providers have stressed in the last year. A strong majority (64%) say they understand the glide path concept of the investment mix getting more conservative over time. The study also gauged participants’ understanding of risk.Read more >
EBSA Head Lisa Gomez Says DOL Continues Honing Retirement Security Rule
Data and Research
Early Withdrawals Found to Exacerbate 401(k) Account Disparities Across Race, Gender
Final Fiduciary Rule Expected Soon
The Connecticut Retirement Security Board (CRSB) has submitted a report to the General Assembly recommending a number of initiatives to the legislature and the governor to address the issue of private-sector workers in Connecticut without access to a workplace savings plan. Under a range of market scenarios and plan designs, a public retirement program for private-sector employees would be viable in Connecticut, the report concludes.Read more >
A Plan Sponsor Uses an RFP Service to Find an Adviser
Coffman Engineers had an adviser to its 401(k) plan, but decided it needed a change. “We were looking for more depth—the firm we used was a one-man show—and we wanted more analysis of money managers,” says Pat Piermattei, senior vice president at Coffman in Seattle. The company felt limited by searching for advisers in its local area, so it contacted an RFP service provider.Read more >
Economic Events

The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced that construction spending during November 2015 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,122.5 billion, 0.4% below the revised October estimate of $1,127.0 billion. The November figure is 10.5% above the November 2014 estimate of $1,016.1 billion. During the first 11 months of 2015, construction spending amounted to $1,011.9 billion, 10.7% above the $913.9 billion for the same period in 2014.

Market Mirror

A drop in shares in China led to negative results for major U.S. stock indices on the first trading day of the year. The Dow fell 276.09 points (1.58%) yesterday to 17,148.94, the NASDAQ lost 104.32 points (2.08%) to finish at 4,903.09, and the S&P 500 dropped 31.25 points (1.53%) to 2,012.69. The Russell 2000 closed 27.27 points (2.40%) lower at 1,108.62, and the Wilshire 5000 plunged 325.19 points (1.55%) to 20,654.32.

On the NYSE, 3.1 billion shares traded, with declining issues outnumbering advancing issues more than 2 to 1. On the NASDAQ, 2.7 billion shares changed hands, with a more than 3 to 1 lead for decliners.

The price of the 10-year Treasury note was up 10/32, decreasing its yield to 2.236%. The price of the 30-year Treasury bond increased 23/32, bringing its yield down to 2.981%.
Some Coal Company Employees Get PBGC Protection
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) announced December 30 it will pay retirement benefits for more than 2,700 current and future retirees at Walter Energy Inc., a producer and exporter of coal based in Birmingham, Alabama. The agency is taking on responsibility for a retirement plan for salaried employees. However, two days before the PBGC’s announcement, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama issued an opinion and order granting Walter Energy’s request to reject collective bargaining agreements, implement final labor proposals, and terminate retiree benefits for union employees.Read more >
Church Plan Legislation Finally Gets Passed
Section 336 of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act (S. 2029), which was passed as part of the recent budget deal signed into law by President Obama on December 18, 2015, contains a number of significant provisions affecting church plans, according to a Groom Law Group Benefits Brief. The measure addresses each of the five issues in bills previously introduced to Congress by lawmakers, including controlled group rules, grandfathered defined benefit (DB) plans, automatic enrollment in church defined contribution (DC) plans, transfers between 403(b) and 401(a) plans, and investing in collective trusts.Read more >
Small Talk
ON THIS DATE: In 1885, the Long Island Railroad Company became the first to offer piggy-back rail service, which was the transportation of farm wagons on trains. In 1914, Ford Motor Company announced there would be a new daily minimum wage of $5 and an eight-hour workday. In 1925, Mrs. Nellie Taylor Ross was sworn in as the governor of Wyoming. She was the first female governor in the U.S. In 1933, in California, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began. In 1944, the London “Daily Mail” was the first transoceanic newspaper to be published. In 1948, Warner Brothers-Pathe showed the very first color newsreel. The footage was of the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl football classic. In 1956, in the Peanuts comic strip, Snoopy walked on two legs for the first time. In 1961, “Mr. Ed” debuted. The show would run for six years. In 1970, “All My Children” premiered on ABC. In 1972, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon ordered the development of the space shuttle. In 1993, the state of Washington executed Westley Allan Dodd. It was America’s first legal hanging since 1965. In 1998, U.S. Representative, and former entertainer, Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Hangings were common in Colonial America into the age of the Wild West, but development of methods deemed less cruel reduced the number of hangings over time. In most states, hanging is not an allowed form of capital punishment, but in two states it may still be used. Can you guess which two?Read more >
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Editorial: Alison Cooke Mintzer


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