Bad Policy – AGAIN!

Further hikes in PBGC premiums will help pay for a federal budget bill agreed to by the White House and congressional leaders late Monday.

But, at what cost to our economy and employees?

According to P&I, the budget deal, which lays out a two-year budget and extends the federal debt limit until March 2017, raises per-person premiums paid to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. from $64 in 2016 to $68 in 2017, $73 in 2018 and $78 in 2019. The 2015 rate is $57. Variable rate premiums would increase to $38 by 2019 from the current $24.

The proposal also calls for extending pension funding stabilization rules for two more years, until 2022, to allow sponsors to use higher interest rates when calculating contribution rates. Regrettably, this is nothing more than fuzzy math, and it continues to mask the true economics for DB plans.

“Once again the employer-sponsored system is being targeted for revenue,” said Annette Guarisco Fildes, president and CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee, who predicted that the premium hike will give defined benefit plan sponsors “more reasons to consider exit strategies.” We, at KCS, absolutely agree. DB plans need to be preserved. Punishing sponsors by raising PBGC premiums is not supportive.

“It’s an incredibly bad idea and it’s going to have, in the long run, devastating consequences for the (defined benefit) system,” said Deborah Forbes, executive director of the Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets, in an interview.

According to P&I, PBGC officials had not called for additional premium increases in the single-employer program on top of ones already scheduled. “PBGC’s finances for the single-employer program have been improving steadily over the past few years, and there is really no reason to increase single-employer premiums at this time,” said Michael Kreps, a principal with Groom Law Group.

We’ve witnessed a precipitous decline in the use of DB plans during the last 30+ years. The elimination of DB plans as THE primary retirement vehicle and the move toward DC offerings to fill that gap is creating an environment in which there will be grave social and economic consequences. Enough already! Wake up Washington before the slope gets too slippery.

Advertisements

Housing Rental Expense killing DC contributions?

Despite the fact that inflation, as measured by the CPI, seems to be contained, rental expense for housing has jumped significantly in the US during the last decade.  As a country we are moving away from being a home ownership society to one that rents housing, as home ownership is now at its lowest since 1967! Furthermore, the only reason the home ownership rate is as “high” as it is, is due to homeowners in the 65 and over age group. For everyone else, home ownership rates are now the lowest recorded.

Compounding this problem is the fact that US household incomes are 7.2% less than they were in 1999. The lower incomes are being crushed by rising housing costs, medical expenses / insurance and education. Is it no wonder that folks don’t have any additional resources to fund their DC plans? What percentage of the US population really has discretionary income at this time?

According to the “State of the Nation’s Housing” report released by the Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, which showed that while inflation among most products and services may indeed be roughly as the Fed and BLS represent it, when it comes to rent things have never been worse.

According to the report, 2013 marked another year with a record-high number of cost burdened households – those paying more than 30 percent of income for housing. In the United States, 20.7 million renter households (49.0 percent) were cost burdened in 2013.  Alarmingly, 11.2 million (25%) all renter households, had “severe cost burdens, paying more than half of income for housing.” The median US renter household earned $32,700 in 2013 and spent $900 per month on housing costs.

So, do you still believe that the failure to fund defined contribution plans is because we have a population hellbent on consumption? The demise of the DB plan means that a significant percentage of our population will never be able to make adequate contributions (if any) into their retirement plan. The social and economic consequences for our country will be grave.

KCS August 2015 Fireside Chat – “Targeting Future Changes”

We are pleased to share with you the latest edition in the KCS Fireside Chat series.  This article touches on the burgeoning use of target date funds (TDFs).  However, all TDFs aren’t the same, and plan sponsors have an important responsibility to make sure that they stay on top of these funds from both an investment and fiduciary standpoint.  My colleague, Dave Murray, shares his expertise on these important investment vehicles.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can provide any assistance.  Enjoy!

http://www.kampconsultingsolutions.com/images/KCSFCAUG15.pdf

IMG_1237

Delayed Gratification – Just How Important Is It?

The following Tweet was posted by Vanguard this morning – “Delaying gratification, avoiding debt, & saving are all central to a financial literacy program for student”. We all know that we are more responsible for funding our retirement than at any time in the last 60 years, but just because we know doesn’t mean we have the ability to do so.

Defined Contribution plans are the vehicles of choice for most private sector employers, if not their employees. However, funding these plans, even to meet the company match, is not easy for many (most) low to middle income households. At KCS, we’ve discussed the benefits of participating in a DB plan versus a DC plan since our founding.

But, if you have a job, don’t have substantial student loan our housing debt, and can afford to make sizable contributions into your retirement program, it is better to delay gratification and make those contributions as early and often as possible. Why? Because the math of compounding truly works.

For instance, if a 22 year old can make a monthly contribution of $833 for 10 years, the $99,960 in contributions growing at 4% / year will become $438,393.12 upon reaching age 65. Again, that is with making contributions for only the first 10 years. At that point, you’ve basically funded your retirement and now you can begin acquire some of the other assets that you’ve been deferring.

However, if you can’t fund your retirement upfront with sizable monthly contributions, but can only put in $194 / month for the next 43 years growing at 4% until age 65, your balance upon retirement would only be $256,648.87, or roughly $182,000 less in total assets. WOW!

Finally, just think about how little you’ll be able to accumulate in your account if you delay making contributions until the age of 32. For instance, if you can only make that $194 / month for the next 33 years your account balance at age 65 is only $154,500, more than $100,000 less than you would have had if you began contributing the $194 / mo for the prior 10 years.

So, DC plans need funding often and early to be successful, but having the financial wherewithal is not a given, and having the discipline is not easy.

Of Course They Are Going To Pick Above Average Managers!!

I had the pleasure of attending the Opal Conference in Newport, RI the last few days. Opal’s “Public Funds Summit East: Navigating the Future” was well attended by public fund trustees, asset consultants and investment management professionals. I will provide a general overview in a later blog post, but I want to dedicate this text to an issue related to investment management fees.

I was particularly disturbed by a comment by an asset consultant when the issue of performance fees was raised. This consultant was troubled by the notion of paying performance fees to managers of any ilk because managers are chosen by his firm who can and will add value, so why pay more for their services? How naive!

Just prior to this panel’s discussion, we were implored by a plan sponsor to seek economies of scale, while also being cognizant of fees (all fees, and not just investment manager fees), as they can be destructive to a plan’s long-term health. I absolutely agree.

Even if a consultant thought that a manager had the above average ability to provide an excess return on a fairly consistent basis, why would they or their clients be willing to pay a manager their full fee without the promise of delivery? As a reminder, the “average” manager will return the performance of the market minus transaction costs and fees.

It is fairly easy to calibrate the performance fee with the asset-based fee based on the expected excess return objective. If the manager achieves the return target, the fees paid should be roughly equivalent, with perhaps the performance fee relationship paying slightly more as compensation for the manager assuming more risk. However, in no case should the performance fee reward a manager to a much greater extent than the asset based fee would have generated.

If the manager truly has the ability to add consistent value, they should be comfortable assuming a performance fee. Importantly, the plan sponsor shouldn’t fear the injection of more risk into the strategy, as the manager is not likely interested in jeopardizing their reputation for a few more basis points. In addition, there are easy ways to track whether this is happening.

Lastly, paying flat asset-based fees in lieu of creating a more incentive based compensation structure is just wrong. Plans should be happy to pay fees based on value-add, but should be infuriated when forced to pay an asset-based fee for the usual less than index return.

KCS has a white paper on this topic that can be accessed on the KCS website. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’d like to discuss this issue in greater detail. Asset consultants are kidding themselves (and their plan sponsor clients) if they think that they will only pick above average managers!

ETPs, ETFs – WTH?! KCS’s February Fireside Chat

ETPs, ETFs – WTH?! KCS’s February Fireside Chat

We are pleased to share with you KCS’s February 2014 Fireside Chat.  This article is related to “ETFs”.

…What’s the Hype?!

 

As philosopher Jose Marti once said, “Like stones rolling down hills, fair ideas reach their objectives despite all obstacles and barriers.  It may be possible to speed or hinder them, but impossible to stop them.” So goes the growth in Exchange Traded Products (ETPs)! Although ETPs have been around since 1993, the growth in these investment products has been startling during the last decade, and especially in the last five years.  On a global basis, it is estimated that there exist more than 4,700 ETPs from more than 200 providers with assets exceeding $2.1 trillion and traded on 56 exchanges. Wow! 

 

Please click onto the link to gain access to the entire article.