The right way to Stop Pension Plan Leakage

In a new report, the Joint Tax Committee of Congress estimates that 22% of net contributions to 401 (k) s and other company retirement plans made by those under 50 in any given year will be prematurely withdrawn through hardship cases. Loans or disbursements through a change of profession.

Early retirement withdrawals from retirement accounts are often referred to as “leaks,” according to the Estimating Leakage From Retirement Savings Accounts report.

The Joint Committee says the most common cause of job loss is leaving, but it can also be caused by five life events, the most common of which is unemployment or a negative income shock, followed by a home purchase, divorce, or one Separation, high medical costs or new tuition fees.

However, there are steps retirement plan advisors and sponsors can take to prevent leakage, including training attendees, according to senior executives at the Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH), which provides automatic rollover services from 401 (k) s to individual retirement accounts (IRAs ) or new 401 (k) plans. They also say that a plan can hire a company like RCH to guide new employees and departing employees through rollovers.

The first thing advisors and sponsors must do to prevent retirement plan leakage is hardship loans and withdrawals, says Neal Ringquist, executive vice president and chief of sales at RCH.

“Sponsors have to strike a delicate balance with on-the-fly payouts,” says Ringquist. “Limit on-service payouts too much, and plan participation suffers,” because attendees don’t want to forego access to their money, he says. “Make it too liberal and the leak will increase.”

He says the Happy Medium advisors should recommend sponsors only allow one loan at a time.

Another way to prevent a leak is to help employees create emergency savings accounts.

According to a report by Commonwealth and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA) Retirement Research Center, those with emergency savings accounts were half as likely to resort to retirement funds during the pandemic. The study found that low- to middle-income respondents with less than $ 2,000 in cash savings were twice as likely to have taken out a 401 (k) loan or hardship allowance in response to COVID-19.

“Emergency austerity measures are critical to those who have them,” said Catherine Wright, Commonwealth senior innovation manager. “The pandemic really showed the importance of these savings. I can imagine that in the future we will see more skilled workers who offer emergency savings via the employer channel. “

When it comes to cash-out leakage, communicating about the importance and benefits of consolidating retirement assets is always helpful, especially on the active plan, adds Ringquist. With that in mind, the advisor can ensure that the plan accepts roll-in contributions from both retirement plans and IRAs – and offer services to facilitate these rollovers into the plan. “

Thomas Hawkins, senior vice president of marketing and research at RCH, says he is not at all surprised by the finding by the Joint Committee on Taxation that the main reason for data loss is payouts when changing jobs.

“It’s important to understand the problem first,” says Hawkins. “Payout leakage that occurs after the split [from a job] is by far the largest leakage problem, accounting for 89% of all leaks, ”he says, citing 2009 data from the General Accountability Office (GAO).

Boston Research Technologies also released a study that found two-thirds of cash withdrawals are avoidable and not used for a real emergency, he continues.

RCH found that “two-thirds of those attending withdrawals have less than $ 5,000 in balance,” adds Hawkins. He also says that the best way to bypass leaks is to train participants – both for newly dropped participants and for new hires. In fact, Hawkins claims that education can reduce cash-out loss by more than 50%.

However, an analysis of the tax data by economists Peter Brady and Steven Bass of the Investment Company Institute (ICI) argued that some studies significantly overestimate the leakage of retirement accounts. This could be because different studies use different definitions for “leakage”. For example, ICI economists define leakage as early withdrawals from retirement accounts that are not used for retirement purposes.

But no matter how many leaks a plan sees, says Spencer Williams, president and CEO of Retirement Clearinghouse, advisors should make sure attendees get an education. “A consultant should ensure that the plan has hired a service provider who specializes in advising and training new hires and layoffs to help them make good decisions and prevent spills,” he says.

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