1st Quarter 2018
Defined contribution (DC) participants who simply have not saved enough cannot expect any available solutions to magically create a cushy retirement income stream out of nothing. However, plan sponsors can be proactive in working with participants to counter magical thinking, help them set reasonable goals and develop a coherent path to and through retirement. This article explains some of the key drivers of DC participants’ retirement decision making, common missteps by those making retirement decisions and how employers can help workers formulate a better retirement plan.
Employers must strike the right balance in providing benefits that are valuable and attractive enough to manage an orderly succession and turnover of their workforce while also achieving greater control in the management of costs and long-term commitments. This article describes changes in the retirement benefits landscape, the importance of understanding how today’s employees perceive their benefits, risk shifting under defined contribution (DC) plans and how DC plans can be “pensionized” in order to provide successful outcomes for participants. The author also discusses funding nonqualified retiree benefits such as employer-paid retiree life insurance, executive benefits, deferred compensation and employer-paid retiree medical.
By far, the most common form of allocation help for defined contribution plan participants is currently delivered in the form of target-date funds, which have been phenomenally successful in the marketplace. However, providers of managed account solutions are promoting new approaches and claiming that the benefits within these solutions more than outweigh their higher cost, especially in light of the declining costs of managed account services. At the same time, both managed account and target-date fund solutions are evolving to better serve a wide variety of participants, yet Department of Labor (DOL) guidance on the fiduciary aspects of selecting and monitoring these products has not kept pace. As a result, plan sponsors are faced with difficult yet highly consequential decisions within a complex and litigious market. This article explains what plan sponsors must do to meet this challenge.
Defined contribution (DC) plans are the primary retirement planning vehicle for U.S. workers, and target-date funds (TDFs) are currently popular for many DC participants. However, no two TDFs are the same and, as a result, returns have varied widely. For plan sponsors to help participants pursue their retirement income goals and help reduce the risk of litigation, they need to understand the methodology behind TDFs, the right questions to ask of providers and the framework DOL has provided for selecting and monitoring TDFs. Managed accounts also are emerging as a qualified default investment alternative (QDIA) that offers participants a more customized asset allocation than is available in a TDF. This article is designed to help plan sponsors that want to understand the best practices for evaluating and managing TDFs and managed accounts in order to offer the most beneficial DC plan possible to their employees.
A targeted retirement plan, coupled with financial wellness guidance, can help employees build an achievable vision for life after work. To succeed, however, employees must avoid five common retirement investing mistakes: (1) starting too late, (2) not saving enough, (3) investing too conservatively, (4) failing to prioritize retirement savings over other financial goals and (5) timing the market. This article describes each mistake, outlines what steps employers can take to help employees avoid them and identifies the business case for why employers should take those steps.
Changes in the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) reporting requirements will increase the liabilities of many state and local governments’ health plans in 2018. Although many public employers already have taken steps to control their retiree health benefit liabilities, additional actions may be helpful in the near future. The private sector has experienced similar changes and has been very aggressive in working to minimize their effect. This article describes strategies that many private companies have used to avoid a significant liability increase and can serve as a road map for public sector employers in dealing with GASB changes.
When we think about longevity and how long people are living today, we often think about money and financial calculations. However, there also are many human aspects to longevity that we should consider, including people’s perceptions of longevity and how to maintain social engagement as we age. Employees have to consider longevity not only when planning for themselves but also when planning for how to help their parents. Several projects conducted or supported by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) focus on the human side of longevity. This article provides insights on that research and helps employers assist their employees to think about the related issues.
The level of future Social Security benefits is an important aspect of retirement readiness. This article argues that for purposes of financial planning and retirement readiness, there is no justification for the assumption commonly made in studies and online advice that benefits will not be reduced for future retirees. We argue that the retirement readiness problem is worse than is commonly measured because the value of future Social Security benefits is often overstated.
2nd Quarter 2018
Benefits marketplaces create an entirely new benefits experience for employees to shop online for their health and other benefits. A wide array of product and plan choices can allow employees to create customized portfolios of benefits tailored to their own needs. Through these online marketplaces, employers can offer more benefit choices to their employees while also controlling benefits costs in the face of annual rate increases from medical carriers. In fact, 86% of employers that participated in a 2017 Willis Towers Watson survey regarding employer satisfaction with benefits marketplaces reported that moving to an online marketplace had helped them control benefits costs. In this article, we look to the results from companies that have already made the shift to a benefits marketplace to understand employee buying patterns over time and the implications of system recommendations on employee purchases.
Given the threat environment facing plan sponsors today, it is natural to wonder what steps they can take to address cybersecurity concerns and what resources are available, both from the government and private entities. This article will provide a review of some of those resources and initiatives that are seeking to address cybersecurity more comprehensively for the employee benefits industry and steps plan sponsors can take to improve their cybersecurity. Developing a productive, secure and effective program for conducting cybersecurity due diligence and management is still something of an art, but it is something that virtually every industry is striving to accomplish.
Over the next four years, the robotic process automation (RPA) market is expected to grow to about $200 billion, with the vast majority of Fortune 1000 companies adopting it. This article shows how, by beginning a journey now to transform the human resources (HR) function through RPA, employers can be in position to lead the disruption and not be compelled to react to it.
Roughly half the U.S. population is covered under health plans sponsored by large employers. That puts these organizations in a powerful position to demand increased consistency and value from the health care system, starting with their local markets. Through provider network optimization, employers finally have a practical approach to understanding their local health care ecosystems and engaging in strategies that drive their employees to lower cost providers that truly deliver quality care. Through this new level of transparency and insight, proactive employers are empowered to make intelligent decisions on how to guide their people to the best quality care at competitively priced facilities.
For plan sponsors with a significant percentage of participants who do not have access to the technology taking over our benefit plans, there is a worry that these participants will be left behind. Participants in this position feel frustrated and angry because they have difficulties connecting to their benefits. Plan sponsors in this area also have a great deal of frustration as vendors implement no-paper systems, roll out automation and use other technology that makes participants more disconnected from their benefits. The more disconnected these participants become, the less they will appreciate the benefits provided by the employer.
Employers with self-funded medical plans feel helpless these days in their struggle to control rising plan costs. Medical and pharmacy costs are continuing to increase dramatically year over year, while opportunities to truly manage them seem scarce. Centers of excellence (COEs) have represented a savings opportunity for large self-funded employers for a number of years, and the trend is moving downstream to smaller self-funded employers. Employers across the nation need to understand how a centers of excellence program could work for their population to change members’ care decisions, improve health outcomes and reduce unit costs to maximize the savings potential for common procedures.
Adverse drug events (ADEs) are a major public health issue, and identifying which patients in a large population require targeted interventions can be quite difficult. Computational tools developed with clinical and pharmacological data can be highly valuable for identifying those patients. This project presents the application of a novel risk stratification tool that utilizes only medical claims data to identify members at high risk of ADEs in 2,528 members from a selffunded employer population. Algorithms were designed to score five different risk factors to personalize the patient’s risk for quick mitigation via health care professional interventions. In total, 15,911 medications were considered in the analysis, indicating an average of five medications per member (ranging from one to 48 medications per member). In total, the tool was able to identify 324 members (12.8%) considered at high risk for ADEs. Furthermore, 61 members (2.4%) considered at the highest risk for ADEs were identified by isolating those members who were in the high-risk groups for all five medication risk factors. In conclusion, our results indicate that a risk stratification tool based on medical claims cannot only quickly identify high-risk members but also provide insights into how to intervene and prevent costly medical expenditures.
Most employee benefit projects (like all projects) have certain logical, critical or potential failure points. In many cases, project failure can spell disaster, resulting in impact to employees, organizations and careers. Growing use of new technologies and/or innovative approaches may increase project risk because many innovative approaches and new technologies have not been tried or proven. A simple exercise, known as a
project premortem, can dramatically reduce project risk for employee benefit projects. The purpose of this article is to provide seven steps for successfully implementing a project premortem process. While the process is applicable to all projects in all industries, this article examines the applicability of the premortem to employee benefit projects, especially those using newer technology or innovative approaches.