The recent uptick in publications from the private sector focusing on lifetime income is now a welcome surprise, complete with studies showing that participants are now wanting elements of guaranteed income ad part of their retirement arrangements. But lifetime income can be a daunting concept for the non-actuarial/non-insurance professional whose practice is focused on defined contribution arrangements. Where does one even start in trying to figure this out, and whether or not to include it your clients DC plans or IRAs?
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How do you audit a 403(b) in-kind distribution? There is no financial transaction, no cash changes hands, there is no change in investments. It really is only a nominal change in the records of the insurer. Yet, somehow, GAAP requires that the “transaction” be verified. There is no answer, yet, to this question, which means the industries (that is, auditors, insurers, and lawyers) will be pressed for finding a standardized approach for bringing audit certainty to this process. It even becomes a bigger issue than 403(b)s: QLACs and other distributed annuity contracts are all able to be distributed as “in-kind” distributions from 401(a) plans as well, and there is no acceptable “recordkeeping” method to audit.
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Even with all of the interest in the Fiduciary Rule, the DOL is still paying attention to lifetime income-so much so that the Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract (the “QLAC”, established by the IRS) was granted broad relief under the Rule. This relief is so favorable that one of the claims being brought in the 5

The DOL just published its first serious guidance on supporting lifetime income with the publication of FAB 2015-2, guidance which is very necessary for the success of the Qualified Longevity Annuity Contracts, as well as DC lifetime income income. The FAB is an initial, but substantial, step in addressing one of the most pressing of the ERISA issues related to providing lifetime income from defined contribution plans.
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The QLAC seems to be in the 403(b) “sweet spot”, considering that 403(b) annuities were originally designed to provide lifetime income in the first place. However, as with all things 403(b), however, there are a few unusual twists when trying to put a QLAC in a 403(b) arrangement. Here are a few of the things to consider
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We have been extensively researching, writing on and developing the concept of providing lifetime income from defined contribution plans for some 15 years. The work has resulted in a patent; several major independantly published research papers; the  outlining of some of the important concepts which underline the proposed QLAC regs and its key revenue ruling; and the development of more than one retirement product. If you look closely, you’ll see that that many of the major whitepapers  published on lifetime income are well based on this extensive work we have published. Some of the work really is groundbreaking; for example, we propose  a useful fiduciary process which can be used by fiduciaries in the purchase of annuities, in our NYU paper.

This blog has carried much of that material for the past 5 years, since February, 2009. We’ve now compiled those pieces here for use by  employers, vendors, actuaries, advisers and attorneys who may be struggling to support lifetime income in defined contribution plans.


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A more complete and up to date description of how lifetime income can work in a DC plan is in order. Evan Giller (newly Of Counsel with Boutwell and Faye) and I put together the attached piece entitled “Regulatory and Fiduciary Framework for Providing Lifetime Income from Defined Contribution Plans.” It is originally appearing in the New York University Review of Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation – 2013. Published by LexisNexis Matthew Bender. Copyright 2013 New York University.” In the paper, we’ve drawn upon our long experience with retirement plan annuities, mixing it well with all of these new developments.
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Both of these agencies (Treasury and DOL) continue to attempt to support this process, using their existing regulatory authority. Though there are a number of things which probably need legislative action in order to really make guaranteed lifetime income readily available, there are still a few things regulators may want to consider doing to help it all along
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For those of you who do not subscribe to BNA, BNA published as an "Insight" an article I wrote on QLAC and Rev Rul 2012-3 (yes, my author agreement permits me to post it here, with attribution).  Look for Paul Hamburger’s upcoming related article, delving into a number of technical and policy issues they raise,