But, first, another note of introduction……
It is with great pleasure to announce that my friend and fellow pink-shirted compatriot (many of our industry colleagues may fondly remember THAT story!) Sandy Koeppel has decided to join us as Of Counsel, and to have some fun following his illustrious career at Prudential. Together with myself, Phil Troyer and Conni Toth, we intend to continue to contribute helping make the U.S. retirement system – which we are all so passionate about – work better. Sandy brings a tremendous wealth of experience in guaranteed lifetime income from employer plans to the marketplace (I invite you to read his bio), and intends to continue to carry this torch. Between us all, we offer substantial knowledge of the design, marketing and distribution of these products.
Sandy, as he mentions below, has also formed Plan Income Consulting & Evaluation Services, LLC (PLICES), a consulting firm which has affiliated with this firm and which provides advisors, vendors and employers consulting services related to guaranteed income products.
Drop Sandy a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, his first blog:
The shift from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution plans as the primary workplace retirement vehicle has eroded the confidence and jeopardized the retirement security of a vast number of American workers and their families. The recently published EBRI 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey finds that confidence among workers in their ability to have a comfortable retirement has dropped to an all-time low. According to the EBRI survey,
"the percentage of workers not at all confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement grew from 22 percent in 2010 to 27 percent, the highest level measured in the 21 years of the RCS. At the same time, the percentage very confident shrank to the low of 13 percent." The RCS further states that "56 percent of workers expect to receive benefits from a defined benefit plan in retirement, only 37 percent report that they and/or their spouse currently have such a benefit with a current or previous employer. Therefore, up to 19 percent of workers may be expecting to receive the benefit from a future employer—a scenario that is becoming increasingly unlikely, since private-sector employers, in particular, have been cutting back on their defined benefit offerings."
These findings along with other results of this survey are disturbing and demonstrate that American workers not only are uninformed but feel challenged, concerned, and threatened about potential declines in their future lifestyle in retirement.
With the passage of the Pension Protection Act, Congress recognized the need to instill defined benefit-like outcomes into the defined contribution plan universe. The PPA enables plan sponsors to include in their DC plans features such as automatic enrollment, automatic contribution escalation and gain fiduciary protection by offering qualified default investment alternatives deploying professional money management. These important first steps do much to replicate for workers the defined benefit plan experience in the asset accumulation stage. However, up to now, most DC plans do not offer the critical and essential missing piece to assure retirement security: guaranteed lifetime income. There are many reasons for this failure. Chief among them include: legal uncertainty about the rules and standards that apply to the choice of providers; unsettled tax issues (e.g. applicability of qualified joint and survivor annuity rules) associated with new and innovative forms of guaranteed lifetime income; cost and administrative burdens; lack of demand among participants; lack of guidance from the Department of Labor delineating between advice and education for distribution planning and the availability of out-of-plan (retail) vs in-plan (institutional) guaranteed lifetime income solutions if it is desired.
While all of these obstacles and hurdles have, up to now, stood in the way of plan sponsors offering guaranteed lifetime income solutions in their plans, the trend has now shifted. Consider that the Departments of Labor and Treasury have received written testimony and held public hearings on how they can facilitate the offering of guaranteed lifetime income in DC plans. As well, DOL’s ERISA Advisory Council issued a report in 2008 containing several recommendations regarding how DOL can help facilitate the offering and participant selection of guaranteed lifetime income in DC plans. Congress has gotten interested as well. Proposed legislation, S.267 and H.R. 677, would require plan benefit statements to contain an illustration of an "annuity benefit" in addition to a lump sum value. Such legislation, if enacted, would serve two primary purposes: get participants thinking about their plan as a retirement income vehicle rather than merely as a capital accumulation account and if their savings produce an inadequate projection of retirement income hopefully prod them to ratchet up their savings.
Many other initiatives are under way or currently being considered. These include but certainly are not limited to data sharing standards for providers of guaranteed lifetime income developed by the SPARK Institute. As stated in the publication, these standards were developed to facilitate uniform expectations among providers offering these products and thereby address product portability in the event plan sponsors desire to switch recordkeepers away form the income product provider but want to continue to offer the product under their plan. As well, several large trade associations are currently considering whether to request advisory opinions and revenue rulings that address other legal uncertainties associated with the offering of guaranteed lifetime income.
The Law Firm of Robert J. Toth, Jr. along with its affiliated consulting group Plan Income Consulting & Evaluation Services, LLC (PLICES) expect to be integrally involved in obtaining these rulings and assisting plan sponsors and their consultants with the decision making and implementation of guaranteed lifetime income distribution options. Indeed unlike no time in the past what is abundantly clear is that for guaranteed lifetime income in DC plans (ITS) TIME HAS COME TODAY!!!