Right now, many companies are struggling through the fight or flight modes. We recognize that businesses, in general, are taking stock of all their operations—including their retirement plans—and shoring up all the cash they can in the short term with the hope of securing long-term survival.
To deal with the challenges facing workplace retirement plans during this time, we suggest viewing your options through a three-phase approach. These perspectives may help employers potentially preserve and improve their retirement plans for the future.
The importance of having a phased approach:
- Phase I: Shoring up the business and managing cash flow. This includes making adjustments to retirement plans and communicating to employees to ease their angst.
- Phase II: Start looking ahead to when your employees are all returning to a more “regular” working environment. Make improvements to the current plan design and operations.
- Phase III: Focuses on implementing an effective plan governance process.
To help companies navigate through these phases, there are a couple of key things you may want to consider that include:
- Role of financial professional: As educators, financial professionals can help plan sponsors better understand the terms of their retirement plans, inform them of what they can and cannot do with their plans, and explain various tactics and rules for implementing action steps.
- Understanding Plan Sponsors top concerns: At the core, many plan sponsors are concerned with just two words: cash flow. In Top 5 Questions Employers are asking about their 401(k) plans, we provided some of the biggest concerns with important considerations.
- Action steps are needed: Plan sponsors cannot take a passive approach to addressing their questions and concerns. There are unique complexities that are specific to the current design of their plan, especially with the passing of the CARES Act.
With events changing so rapidly every week, it is hard to look past Phase I, shoring up cash flow, but it is important to also keep in mind that one day we will be moving to a “new normal.” It could be a while before we see the financial markets return to a place where people feel confident about their retirement savings. This is why starting to plan on how companies can step up their plan governance is an important next step.
The options a plan sponsor has to ease expenditures related to its retirement plan can only be understood with a thorough review of the governing plan documents. With that knowledge, there is a benefit to leveraging a financial professional who can educate and help plan sponsors on plan triage tactics, help them formulate a game plan unique to their needs, and ease employee anxiety with a coherent communication program.
John Carl, the Founder and President of Retirement Learning Center, contributed to this article.