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.

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Single and Broke In Retirement?

We recently came across a news report that highlighted the fact that “singles” in the U.S. are more likely NOT to have a retirement account. In fact, only 51 percent of unattached people have a retirement savings account, according to a study released Wednesday by Mintel. (Mario Petitti / Chicago Tribune)

The population of single people is rising with almost half of adults today not living with a spouse, according to the U.S. Census. That’s up from about 30 percent in 1967.

“More Americans are staying single longer, and our data shows this trend will hold out for the foreseeable future,” Robyn Kaiserman, Mintel financial services analyst, said in the report.

Regrettably, the percentage of singles that have a retirement account is far less than people who are living with a partner or who are married, the research firm said.

Retirement savings accounts have been set up, in contrast, by 68% of people living with a partner and 84% of married adults.

We, at KCS, suggest that Americans overall need to take retirement more seriously, especially those not in a traditional DB plan.

For participants in defined contribution plans, just 27% contribute the maximum allowed to their plan, and 22% say they contribute only enough to get the employer match.

Whether you are single or not the key to funding a successful retirement is to start saving / investing early in life and be consistent (save with every paycheck). Taking advantage of a matching 401k plan should be a no brainer. Unfortunately, the power of compounding is lost on many people. But, why should that be a surprise? We provide so little financial literacy in our schools!

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

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Market Volatility Giving You The Woollies?

I’ve witnessed many market declines during my more than 33 years in the investment industry, and I would be lying if I told you that I called the beginning, end, and ultimate magnitude of any of the sell-offs.  Market declines are part of the investing game.  But just knowing that isn’t enough, as unfortunately, they can have a profound impact on retirement plans and retirement planning, both institutional and individual, as they impact the psyche of the investors.

It is well documented how individuals tend to buy high and sell low. The market crash of 2007 – 2009 drove many individuals out of equities at or near the bottom, and many of those “investors” have kept their allocations to equities below 2007 levels. It hasn’t been that much better for the average institutional investor either.  We are aware of a number of situations (NJ for one) that plowed into expensive, absolute-return product at the bottom of the equity market only to see that portfolio dramatically underperform very inexpensive beta, as the equity markets have rallied since March 2009.

In some cases, the selling “pressure” was the result of liquidity needs, which lead to the tremendous explosion in the secondary markets for private equity, real estate, etc. in 2009.  The E&F asset allocation model, made so famous by Yale, was the undoing for many retirement plans, as the failure to secure adequate liquidity exacerbated market losses. Who knows whether the turmoil in Greece will lead to their exit (expulsion) from the Euro, but there is certainly heightened fear and volatility in the global markets? Are you currently prepared to meet your liquidity needs?

As we’ve discussed within both the Fireside Chats and on the KCS blog, the development of a hybrid asset allocation model geared specifically to your plan’s liabilities, can begin to de-risk your plan, while dramatically improving liquidity.  The introduction of the beta / alpha concept will provide plan sponsors with an inexpensive cash matching strategy that meets near-term benefit needs, while extending the investing horizon for the less liquid investments in your portfolio. By not being forced to sell into the market correction, your investments have a greater chance of rebounding when the market settles.

Traditional asset allocation models subject the entire portfolio to market movements, while the beta / alpha approach only subjects the alpha assets to volatility.  But, since one doesn’t have to sell alpha assets to meet liquidity needs given that the beta portfolio is used for that purpose, the volatility doesn’t matter. Don’t fret about Greece and its potential implications for the global markets and your plan. Let us help you design an asset allocation that improves liquidity, extends the investment horizon for your alpha assets, and begins to de-risk your plan, as the funded ratio and status improve.

Pension America – Taking Control Of One’s Destiny

For pension plan participants defined benefit plans (DB) must remain the backbone of the US Retirement Industry

The true objective of a pension plan is to fund liabilities (monthly benefits) in a cost effective manner with reduced risk over time. Unfortunately, it has been nearly impossible to get a true understanding of a plan’s liabilities outside of the actuary’s report, which is received by sponsors and trustees only on an annual basis, at best, and usually many months delinquent.

Fortunately, a plan’s liabilities can now be monitored and reviewed on a monthly basis through a groundbreaking index developed by Ron Ryan and his firm, Ryan ALM – The Custom Liability Index (CLI). The CLI is similar to any index serving the asset side of the equation (S&P 500, Russell 1000, Barclays U.S. Aggregate, etc.), except that the CLI measures your plan’s specific liabilities and not some generic liability stream. This critically important tool calculates the present value, growth rate, term-structure, interest rate sensitivity of your plan’s liabilities, and other important statistics such as, average yield, duration, etc. With a more transparent view of liabilities, a plan can get a truer understanding of the funded ratio / funded status.

The use of the CLI enables plan sponsors, trustees, finance officials, and asset consultants to do a more effective job allocating assets and determining funding requirements (contributions). The return on asset assumption (ROA), which has been the primary objective for most DB plans, should become secondary to a plan’s specific liabilities. Importantly, as the plan’s funded status changes, the plan’s asset allocation should respond accordingly.

Importantly, the CLI is created using readily available information from the plan’s actuary (projected annual benefits and contributions), and it is updated as necessary to reflect plan design changes, COLAs, work force and salary changes, longevity forecasts, etc. In addition, the CLI is an incredibly flexible tool in which multiple views, based on various discount rates, can be created. These views may include the ROA, ASC 715, PPA, GASB 67/68, and market-based rates (risk-free), with and without the impact of contributions.

Why should a DB plan adopt the CLI? As mentioned above, DB plans only exist to fund a benefit that has been promised in the future. As a plan’s financial health changes the asset allocation should be adjusted accordingly (dynamic). Without having the greater transparency provided by the CLI, it is impossible to know when to begin de-risking the plan. You’ve witnessed through the last 15 years the onerous impact of market volatility on the funded status of DB plans and contribution costs. Ryan ALM and KCS can help you reduce the likelihood of a repeat, and very painful, performance.

Double DB® – The Answer to a DB Plan’s Funding Volatility and More

Level cost, as a percentage of payroll, is the preferred basis for financing any retirement plan obligation, which is why 401(k) type defined contribution systems have become the nation’s most prevalent retirement vehicle.

Aware of this development and concerned about pre-retirement spending of accumulating funds by participating employees (loans, premature withdrawals), a group of us have confronted the culprit issues: pension cost volatility and resultant perilous pension indebtedness due to prior underfunding (see Illinois, NJ, and a host of other plans).

We have developed an over-arching, patent pending answer to all of it – Double DB®, which;
(1) Provides pensions, not “employee accessible” cash.
(2) Is “percentage of payroll” financed.
(3) Easily “manages” debt from past underfunding.

While accomplishing the above tasks, Double DB also removes the individual from having to manage these retirement assets.

If you would like to have a conversation about how a conversion of a current defined benefit plan to a Double DB® plan might work, please ask and we can send illustrative language or provide contact with our attorney / actuary.

Finally, It may be of interest to note that Chief Counsel’s Office of IRS regards the Double DB® concept favorably.

Double DB presented on Fox Business today

Double DB presented on Fox Business today

I had the pleasure to represent the Double DB pension alliance on Fox Business today.  We introduced the Double DB plan in a conversation with Adam Shapiro.  We hope that you find our conversation enlightening.  Ed Friend, Ron Ryan, Barry Gillman and KCS are looking forward to fielding your questions.  Enjoy!