Top 5 DOL Audit Corrections

Sales People Are Not Benefit Plan Experts

Sadly, information for owners almost exclusively comes from financial service salesmen or saleswomen. In most everything I post, I focus on filling the void of information to protect an owners ass_ets. So, the info below, an owner should know. But, your product salesperson won’t be providing.

The DOL recently focused on CPA Auditors and how their audit of benefit plans happen. They reviewed work processes, training, licensing, practice size. Then, they looked to improve CPA practices to fix the problems they found. The DOL wanted to know how well CPA’s understood employee benefit plans.

CPA’s Are Not Benefit Plan Experts

CPA’s are not well trained in benefit plans. That’s what the DOL discovered. They’re not prepared and do not have good processes to perform plan audits. This includes audits for retirement or welfare plans. Welfare is the technical name for plans that are not retirement, this includes health plans, dental, flexible spending accounts, COBRA and other plans.

Owners Are Responsible

Along with their correction to the CPA community, the DOL offered advice to fiduciaries. Fiduciaries are those responsible for the plan, including the auditor’s actions. One of all the hats owners wear includes fiduciary, they are responsible for what they setup for retirement and healthcare. No one else can be substituted in that role. Sorry Owner friends.

Top 5 Audit Failures Identified by the Department of Labor

1 The word “limited scope audits” poorly defines what should be happening.

2 CPA’s from any size firm who perform too few audits, should not be doing audits.

3 Training of CPA’s is insufficient.

4 CPA’s who do not have others audit their work, should not be doing audits.

5 Don’t assume large firms do enough audits

It Takes Time Owners Don’t Have

Benefit plans can burn up a lot of time for owners who aren’t familiar with their responsibilities to lead the audit. The DOL reminded owners that the audit responsibility ultimately is the owner/fiduciary/trustees responsibility. Your job is to look after the best interest of your employee benefits.

What’s the fix?

The best solution is to hire an outsider, not an employee, not a vendor, not a friend. Someone independent, and someone who can review what’s best for the employees with experience and training. That’s it.

You can’t trust fiduciary to anyone, but you should not expect a financial advisor or anyone associated with the company or you personally to make recommendations for operating the plan.

It doesn’t have to be expensive.

This doesn’t have to be expensive, look for independence in an outsider, or look for a contractual agreement to assume fiduciary responsibilities, just remember, you can’t pass off your responsibility but you can hire trusted people to help.

7 Reasons You May Never Retire

If you ran out of money at age 80 what would you do? Sobering but true, below are only 7 reasons you may never retire. These items should alarm you but it won’t. That’s because unless you study this stuff, and I do, you won’t see the problem or what it means to you.

I’m not a doomsday sayer. I’m just a guy watching this story unfold, and watch it get bigger. I do like the image of politicians, “kicking the can down the road.” But, really, aren’t we all kicking it down the road?

So, listen up, here’s the list of 7.

1) 10,000 Americans reach age 65 every day.
2) Companies offering Pensions has dropped from 112,000 to 23,000
3) 45% of workers cannot access employer-sponsored 401k or pensions.
4) Medicare and Social Security will run out of money by 2028 and 2034.
5) $300 Trillion dollars are owed for unfunded public pensions
6) Americans don’t save, in fact, Americans have a negative savings rate.
7) Politicians have too many competing interests, so they kick the can.

The earlier one starts to save, the easier it is to accumulate sufficient wealth at retirement. The corollary to this is that the longer a country (or an individual) waits to address these issues, the fewer options there will be for solutions, and the options that remain will become more and more difficult to successfully implement (source noted below).

The authors of the article I quote grade our current 401k system as a letter grade of “D+.” I’m not sure what the plus sign means, but I can tell you many individuals are not prepared to retire because so few have pensions (that’s what your Grandpa or Grandma had), and those with a 401k have put too little in it.

Work for a City or other governmental unit?

There is a combined $300 Trillion in unfunded liabilities for employees of these places of work. And, these employees are going to look for their retirement check and receive something like what Detroit retirees received, which was pennies on the dollar.

Your parents and grandparents retired with a pension. They received a check each month for as long as they lived, that, plus social security, made a very comfortable retirement for many people. With the list of 7, you can hopefully see you’re unlikely to retire the way you might be thinking.

You can save now, try closing your Amazon account. Or, find any other way to save. Whether you’re by yourself or at a company or government, the time to do something is now. Make saving and asking questions to protect retirement important to you. After all, I have a friend who says;

“What gets attention, gets done.”

I love these conversations, either to help you as an individual, or your employer. I am happy to help or steer you to better resources.

Building a Strong Retirement Program: One for the AGES, Benefits Quarterly, International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, Brookfield, Wisconsin; www.iscebs.org.

SSI – Claiming age 62 or later, What Does It Cost You?

Maybe a minute now will give you an 8% return per year in retirement?

Life and Economics are full of choices. Here’s one, “when should you claim Social Security?” As early as age 62, or as late as age 70? The research article reviewed here has many detailed tips but here are the basics.

The optimal claiming decision in the research “minimizes the risk that the individual will exhaust his or her retirement savings and be forced at some point to limit consumption to what is provided by Social Security.”

When to Claim?

  1. Claiming late can add as much as 10 years to the life of the retirement
    nest egg. (Meyer and Reichenstein, 2012)
  2. Claiming early (age 62) was optimal for those with low incomes and retirement savings of less than $300,000.
  3. Claiming later, or delaying the start of Social Security benefits, was better for wealthier households with retirement savings greater than $700,000.

Basic Research Assumptions:

Assumed the Maximum Social Security Income possible, retiree paid into the system for 35 years, has a life expectancy with a 50% chance for men to obtain age 85, and age 88 for women and income earnings before retirement (2016) was the maximum of $118,500. Plus, savings at retirement was between a $100,000 and $3,000,000; the 90th percentile was reported as $718,000. In case you’re wondering this range represents 95% of Americans with retirement savings. It does not include those with pensions or those without savings at all.

Monthly Income Assumed To Be:

In this study, monthly income works out to be the amount social security pays you plus equal payments from your retirement savings over your expected lifetime. There’s no negative spending available in retirement.

Let’s Try a Scenario:

Let’s use a made-up scenario. If you’re married, and you and your spouse claim SS at age 62 and you earned the average household income of $70,000 your SSI should be about $3500/month combined, plus $1,700 from savings. That means you would live on $5,200/month for the remainder of your life and you would expect your savings to last to age 85 for men, and age 88 for women. If returns are better than 4% over all and inflation remains at under 3% then your retirement savings will provide income beyond Social Security beyond the average age of death for men 85, women 88.

This assumes you have at retirement $500,000 in retirement, and you take 1/25th each year, the math looks like this ($500,000/25 years / 12 months = $1700/ month).

Don’t know How SSI works?

Social Security Basics, The dollar amount of the retirement benefit available from Social Security is a function of career earning history and the age at which benefits are claimed. The current full retirement age is 66 ($2,639/month) and benefits may be claimed as early as age 62 ($2,102). A benefit reduction is assessed in relation to the full retirement age amount for each month that benefits are claimed prior to attainment of age 66.

Deferred claiming credits increase the benefit for each month that claiming occurs after age 66. An individual claiming at the earliest possible time (age 62) will receive an annual benefit that is 25 percent lower than the full retirement age (66) amount. Claiming at age 70 ($3,576) when the deferred credit stops accruing results in a benefit increase of 32 percent. The authors show how this represents an 8% return for waiting from age 62 to 70 for married couples.

Married individuals are eligible for the greater of the spousal benefit or the
benefit attributable to their own career earnings. Upon the death of a spouse, a married individual is entitled to the entire benefit earned by the spouse, if it is higher. Delayed claiming is therefore equivalent to purchasing a deferred joint and survivor life annuity, with the higher deferred benefit purchased by relinquishing near-term benefits.

Reference the Research here:

Much of the reference for this post comes from this research article, “Does the Benefit of Deferring Social Security Offset the Opportunity Cost to Do So?” by Michael J. Alderson, Ph.D.; and Brian L. Betker, Ph.D., Journal of Financial Planning, September 2017; This article found in the 2018 ISCEBS Fellowship Study Materials, here.

Annuities, also labeled personal pension, longevity insurance, or retirement risk transfer, should be considered in specific circumstances to guarantee income. They also propose other techniques to preserve assets for the remainder of life. The research is detailed, but it comes up short describing more about the value of annuities to protect from living beyond average age. I’ll see if I can find an article on that topic.

As a Benefits Specialist, I follow retirement topics in order to help you with choices you have while you’re planning for retirement or are in retirement.

NEW – AHP, Catholic Business Owners Healthcare Relief

Catholic Business Owners

The NEW AHP regulations created to fit President Trump’s Executive Order make it possible to create a Catholic Buying Trust. This provides owners a way to control what they pay for in healthcare.

This is the biggest news in benefits since ERISA. Small business owners can keep their firmly held beliefs (respect for all Human life), follow their conscience, offer the Dignity of the Human Person in their Healthcare plan, and own the ability to choose how to lower cost. Perfect! Continue reading “NEW – AHP, Catholic Business Owners Healthcare Relief”

Fred the Fish

living In The Ocean

Fred was a fish in the big ocean. Real big ocean. Fred lived with other fish in his school (fish term for family of like fish). Life was OK, but you had to swim around and find food while you avoided the bigger fish who ate the smaller fish like Fred. Sometimes you were not smart enough to get away in time and became fish food for another fish.

The Bait

One day, a strange thing dropped into the ocean. The fish all asked what this new thing was. Then some started to shout (in bubbles, of course, fish can’t shout), “There’s food over here!”.  OK, free food was a very odd thing in the ocean. Some fish began to question why was there this new free food in the center of this new thing that just dropped into the ocean. Some of the fish were not so enlightened and raced towards the free food. Yum, it was good, so it had to be OK, right?

Free Food

Some fish wandered in, took a nibble, and raced back out of the thing where the free food was. If it is that good, it must be bad.
Some fish shouted that the free food was a trap, and to be strong, stay away for the new thing that dropped into their ocean. Fish like Fred listened and followed the fish that said to avoid the new thing and the free food. Many however were weak in character and followed the others into the center of this new thing to get the free food that tasted so good.

Trapped

Then the new thing began to close up, trapping the fish who were just looking for the free food. As it closed, it began to raise up out of the ocean. By now, the fish who had thought the free food was a good thing we’re afraid of what was happening. Up out of the ocean the net went, and the fish disappeared. They were emptied into a pot of boiling water where they were cooked and canned.

Rules Aren’t So Bad

Fred saw that the free food was not a good thing. Life was supposed to be a balance of difficult and rewarding. Sometimes things were easy, but most of the time, life was about following rules and working to be a better fish.
Sounds familiar at all?
Dave Tay