A beacon during the storm

Sean Jordan

By Sean Jordan
Sean Jordan is Head of Emerging Client Management for the Workplace Solutions unit of MassMutual.
Posted on Aug 19, 2020

The oldest lighthouse in North America, Boston Light, has been a beacon of comfort and guidance for mariners since it was first erected on Little Brewster Island in 1716.

Boston Light’s signal has since helped seafarers navigate through and around storms, fog, rocks and other potential disasters. For employers that sponsor retirement plans, your plan provider can be a lighthouse to help guide you as you reopen your business during the uncertainty of the Coronavirus pandemic. MassMutual, for instance, has been a beacon during uncertain times since 1851.

Across the United States, the reopening of the economy has been decidedly stormy. Infections from the virus have spiked in many states while others have managed to ply calmer waters. Many businesses worry about both the short- and long-term viability of their enterprises moving forward, how best to reopen during the pandemic, and the welfare of their employees. It’s no exaggeration to say we’re in uncharted waters.

Such a fraught and complex environment may make the regulatory requirements of sponsoring a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k) or a defined benefit plan seem like a tertiary concern. However, retirement plan sponsors’ fiduciary responsibilities continue unabated and demand attention.

That’s why you should reach out to your retirement plan provider to help guide you to safe waters. There is a wide range of resources to help you reopen your company’s retirement plan:

  • MassMutual’s relationship managers and client engagement managers are available for consultation on a wide variety of topics, including fiduciary and regulatory obligations, updates of any regulatory relief that might become available from federal or state governments, and answering any questions you might have about retirement plan topics.
  • A Q&A document (Your Retirement Plan and the Coronavirus) for quick reference to help answer many of your more fundamental questions about sponsors’ continuing responsibilities. Topics include handling contributions, loans and withdrawals, and the impact of layoffs, furloughs and other employee dislocations on retirement plans.
  • The Fiduciary Calendar, which publishes key regulatory dates and deadlines for defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s and defined benefit plans such as pensions and cash balance plans. The Calendar provides detailed insights about what regulatory obligations sponsors need to address and when.

Other important resources include your plan’s financial professional and your Third Party Administrator (TPA), if you rely on one. Financial pros and TPAs work closely with plan providers to deliver a broad range of services and, in times of uncertainty, help guide you.

Another resource at your fingertips is your plan document. The plan document is the framework of your plan and provides guidance on salary deferrals, contributions, employer matches, loans and withdrawals, and many related topics.

Depending upon how your company has fared during the pandemic, many employees may have been unable or unwilling to continue contributions to their retirement plan. Restarting operations may necessitate promoting the value and importance of contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, saving and investing during volatile markets, or even repairing personal finances that may have been tattered by increased debts, reduced emergency savings or broken budgets.

Educational sessions can help and many providers offer virtual capabilities to conduct educational webinars on a wide variety of topics, from retirement planning and investing to extinguishing debts and saving for a rainy day. And if your retirement plan provider can make an educational specialist available. Your financial professional may be able to deliver virtual sessions as well. You need only to reach out for help.

The Boston Light has survived many a trial and tribulation, especially during the Revolutionary War when the tower was the site of several battles between British and American troops. The lighthouse tower, despite being burned and bombed, continues to serve seafarers to this day.

As you peer through the fog of the Coronavirus, look for the MassMutual beacon to help guide you on reopening or reinvigorating your retirement plan. We’ve been helping clients navigate uncertain times for 169 years.

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