Newsdash Insight on Plan Design & Investment Strategy from PLANSPONSOR
October 21st, 2014
Benefit Briefs
Employees Frustrated with Open Enrollment Process
More than half (56%) of American employees who receive benefits from their employers say the traditional, paper-driven open enrollment process to sign up for health benefits is a waste of time. According to PlanSource’s Open Enrollment Employee Survey, 55% of respondents expressed that they are unsatisfied and frustrated with their employer’s benefits enrollment program. Nearly one-third each say it requires too much research (32%), figuring out how to fill out forms is difficult (31%), and it is mainly paper-driven (30%). Twenty-nine percent say getting confirmation of selections/coverage takes too long. More than half (55%) of respondents say sorting through all their benefits options is confusing.Read more >
Many Baby Boomers Unaware of Retirement Plan Fees
Investment firm Rebalance IRA found 46% of Baby Boomers polled believe they do not pay any fees at all in their retirement accounts. In its survey of 1,165 full-time employed Americans ages 50 to 68, 19% of respondents suggest that their fees are less than 0.5%, and only 4% believe they pay more than 2% in retirement account fees. Rebalance IRA notes that according to the recent 401(k) Averages Book, the average employee had various fees totaling 1.5% each year deducted from his or her 401(k) account.Read more >
Some people contend that retirees fared better when most employer-sponsored retirement plans were defined benefit (DB) pensions, but a study suggests that is not true. First, among retirees overall between 1975 and 2013, Social Security remained the primary source of retiree income in the United States, according to the annual update of an Investment Company Institute (ICI) research study. Secondly, the study, “A Look at Private-Sector Retirement Plan Income After ERISA, 2013,” found retirees across all income groups are collecting more in retirement income now from employer-sponsored retirement plans than they were in the mid-1970s.Read more >
Transamerica Recommends Ways to Improve 401(k)s
A study by Transamerica reveals positive news for retirement savings in America, but there’s still room for improvement. Among employers that offer a 401(k) or similar plan (e.g., SEP, SIMPLE), the vast majority (89%) say they believe their plans are important for their ability to attract and retain talent. Employers are increasingly offering 401(k) or similar plans to their employees. Between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of employers offering a 401(k) or similar plan increased from 72% to 79%, the survey found. During the recession, many 401(k) plan sponsors suspended or eliminated their matching contributions. Plan sponsors that offer matching contributions dropped from 80% in 2007 to approximately 70% from 2009 to 2012. According to the survey, in 2014, 77% of plan sponsors offer a match, nearly rebounding to the 2007 level.Read more >
Market Mirror
Yesterday, the Dow ticked up 19.26 points (0.12%) to 16,399.67, the NASDAQ climbed 57.64 points (1.35%) to 4,316.07, and the S&P 500 gained 17.25 points (0.91%) to finish at 1,904.01. The Russell 2000 closed 12.64 points (1.17%) higher at 1,094.97, and the Wilshire 5000 was up 188.97 points (0.95%) at 20,089.39. On the NYSE, 3.3 billion shares changed hands, with a nearly 3 to 1 lead for advancers. On the NASDAQ, 2.7 billion shares traded, with 2.2 advancing issues for every declining issue. The prices of the 10-year Treasury note and 30-year Treasury bond were each up 2/32, bringing their yields down to 2.192% and 2.967%, respectively.
Rules & Regulators
PBGC Issues Guidance About Funding Relief and Reporting
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) issued guidance about the effect of pension funding relief passed earlier this year on certain reporting requirements. Technical Update 14-2 provides PBGC guidance about the effect of the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (HATFA) on annual financial and actuarial information reporting under Section 4010 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and part 4010 of PBGC’s regulations. HATFA extends relief provided in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)—passed in 2012—which allowed defined benefit plans to discount future benefit payments to a present value using a 25-year average of bond rates rather than a two-year average.Read more >
Financial Sense
The use of sustainability ratings can improve the risk-return ratio of investments in corporate bonds, according to Oekom Research’s new Corporate Bonds Study. Corporate bonds are enjoying increased popularity among various types of investors, including institutions and retirement plans, due in large part to persistent low interest rates on investment-grade government bonds. Lower interest rates result in lower yields from government bond securities, driving investors to corporate bonds. But not all corporate bonds are created equal, Oekom explains, and investors are seeking more effective means of building corporate bond portfolios. Researchers at Oekom suggest those investors who take account of how bond-issuing corporations deal with the industry-specific challenges of sustainable development will have clear advantages in terms of the likelihood of default and the interest return on bonds investments.Read more >
DC Plan Participants Get Jumpy About Equity Holdings
The Aon Hewitt 401(k) Index for October shows participants’ growing worries about potential equity losses are resulting in increased and potentially inappropriate allocations to fixed income. For example, looking at October 14, when the S&P 500 went down 1.65%, about 90% of trades executed the following day were to fixed income. “Ultimately it’s a harmful behavior—they’re basically selling equity after it’s reduced and buying equity after it’s gone up,” Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, tells PLANSPONSOR.Read more >
Small Talk
ON THIS DATE: In 1797, “Old Ironsides,” the U.S. Navy frigate Constitution, was launched in Boston’s harbor. In 1849, the first tattooed man, James F. O’Connell, was put on exhibition at the Franklin Theatre in New York City. In 1858, the Cancan was performed for the first time in Paris. In 1879, Thomas Edison successfully tested the electric incandescent lamp. It would last 13 1/2 hours before it would burn out. In 1927, in New York City, construction began on the George Washington Bridge. In 1959, The Guggenheim Museum was opened to the public in New York. The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1967, thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C., in opposition to the Vietnam War. In 1975, Elton John received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1980, the Philadelphia Phillies won their first World Series.   TUESDAY TRIVIA: Cancan is a French word meaning “tittle-tattle” or “scandal.” The dance, known for its high kicks that exposed both the dancer’s petticoat and leg, was considered scandalous at the time.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Who was the first tattooed woman put on exhibition in America?Read more >
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Editorial: Alison Cooke Mintzer alison.mintzer@strategic-i.com

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