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Allowable Plan Expenses: Can the Plan Pay?

The payment of expenses by an ERISA plan (401(k), defined benefit plan, money purchase plan, etc.) out of plan assets is subject to ERISA’s fiduciary rules. The “exclusive benefit rule” requires a plan’s assets be used exclusively for providing benefits. ERISA also imposes upon fiduciaries the duty to defray reasonable expenses of plan administration. General principles of allowable expenses include the following: The expenses must be necessary for the administration of the plan. The plan’s document and trust agreement…

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Organizing Your Fiduciary File

As a plan sponsor and fiduciary of your company’s retirement plan, keeping an up-to-date fiduciary file is critical. To begin, we recommend preparing your file in four key sections; contents of each section could include the following: I. Documents: plan document, IRS determination letter, summary plan description, investment policy statement, 404(c) policy statement and notice, form 5500s, service provider contracts, nondiscrimination test results, corporate tax returns, corporate board resolutions, etc. II. Administrative: evidence of employer contributions, distribution documents, audit…

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Conflict of Interest of Fiduciary Rule: A Plan Sponsor’s Q & A – Part I

After years of proposed regulation issuance, comment periods, drafting and anticipation, the Department of Labor (DOL) finally published final guidance regarding the definition of “fiduciary” on April 8, 2016. It is important for plan sponsors to understand the reasoning behind, and the scope, of the final rules. The following Q&A is meant to assist you in understanding the regulations and how they pertain to you, your plan and your participants. Q: Why did the DOL issue these new rules? A: The definition of “fiduciary” for purposes of providing…

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Q&As on Roth 401(k)

The Roth 401(k) is 10 years old! With 62% of employers now offering this option, it’s more likely than not that you can make Roth contributions to your 401(k) plan.1 Are you taking advantage of this opportunity? What is a Roth 401(k) plan? A Roth 401(k) plan is simply a traditional 401(k) plan that permits contributions to a designated Roth account within the plan. Roth 401(k) contributions are made on an after-tax basis, just like Roth IRA contributions. This…

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How many types of government savings bonds are there, and what’s the difference between them?

While the U.S. government has issued 13 types of savings bonds, there are currently only two series available for purchase through the U.S. Treasury Department: Series EE bonds and Series I bonds. U.S. savings bonds are nonmarketable securities, which means you can’t resell them unless you’re authorized as an issuing or redeeming agent by the U.S. Treasury Department. Savings bonds are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. You can buy Series…

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Mid-Year 2016: An Investment Reality Check

Market volatility is alive and well in 2016. Low oil prices, China’s slowing growth, the prospect of rising interest rates, the strong U.S. dollar, global conflicts–all of these factors have contributed to turbulent markets this year. Many investors may be tempted to review their portfolios only when the markets hit a rough patch, but careful planning is essential in all economic climates. So whether the markets are up or down, reviewing your portfolio with your financial professional can be an excellent way to keep your investments on track, and midway through the year is…

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Are You Excluding Part-Timers From the Retirement Plan?

Many plan sponsors mistakenly believe that they are not required to offer the retirement plan to part-time employees. Regardless of what type of retirement plan you have, all employees, including part-time employees that work 1,000 hours in a year, must be offered the retirement benefit. Though your plan may contain a service requirement that essentially prevents “part-timers” from ever becoming eligible (such as a one year and/or 1,000 hours requirement), part-time employees may NOT categorically be excluded as a…

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What Constitutes Proper Documentation of Retirement Plan Committee Meetings?

With most retirement plans, the fiduciary responsibility of selecting and monitoring the plan’s menu of investments is designated to a retirement plan investment committee. This committee usually includes financial officers and human resources officers of the employer. The committee meets periodically (anywhere from annually to quarterly) to consider agenda items including investment due diligence, fees and services of plan providers, status of plan goals, etc. From a fiduciary perspective it is just as important to properly document these meetings…

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The High Price of Yield and Perceived Safety

Since the inception of markets, there have been particular investments that garnered the attention of investors above all others. In the 1600s it was the tulip mania and at the turn of this century, tech stocks had investors’ focus. Although not to the extent of these examples, currently low-volatility dividend paying stocks are the rage du jour in this low-yielding uncertain market environment. The lack of yield available on bonds has driven yield-thirsty investors to bond proxies for income,…

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If You Were King

The Democratic and Republican National Conventions are over but the shouting certainly is not. Because the recent news has been filled with the various musings of both party’s candidates, I think talking about their COMMON THEMES (yes, there is one!) would be worthwhile and instructive. NOTE: I will stay politically neutral here. It would be easy to avoid talking about politics when the country is so polarized, but then I would not be serving you well. My job is…

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