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2014 Checklist for Retirement Plan Sponsors

Employers who offer retirement programs are considered plan sponsors for communication and reporting purposes. Now is the time for you and your plan advisors to review the 2013 plan year and identify what needs to be modified for 2014 and what improvements can be made for 2014. This review should include the human resources team seeking ways to improve participation and the employee experience.

According to a recent J.P. Morgan Asset Management survey, 30% of participants indicated that they expected their savings to last through their retirement years. The survey also showed that 52% said they don't have sufficient talent to plan for retirement. Yet, 44% reported that they are receiving more 401(k) plan information than they can absorb. Is the communication too detailed or technical? Do the employees read the material? Does the employee perception hurt plan participation?

These are items that HR and management should review and improve if your employees provide similar input. Read the following to help you jump-start your 2014 program.

  • If yours is a calendar year plan: Send payroll and employee census data to the plan's record keeper for year-end compliance testing.
  • Audit fourth quarter payroll and plan deposit dates to ensure compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor on participant contributions and loan repayments.
  • Verify that employees who became eligible for the plan between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 received an enrollment form. Follow up on forms that were not returned.
  • Make sure enrollment material is up to date.
  • Contact your plan provider to see what communications are planned for the year and the timetable for roll-out.
  • Review year-end plan level reports covering deposits and withdrawals for 2013.
  • If yours is a calendar year plan: Update the plan's ERISA fidelity bond coverage to reflect the plan's assets as of Dec. 31. Remember that if the plan holds employer stock, bond coverage is higher than for non-stock plans.
  • Notify employees that they should review and update, as needed, their beneficiary designations.
  • Review and revise the roster of all plan fiduciaries and confirm each individual's responsibilities and duties to the plan in writing.
  • If yours is a calendar year plan: Begin planning for the timely completion and submission of the plan's Form 5500 and, if required, a plan audit. Review the DOL's small plan audit waiver requirements. Review outstanding participant plan loans to determine any delinquent payments. Confirm that each loan's repayment period and the amount borrowed comply with legal limits.
  • Check bulletin boards and display racks to make sure that posters and other plan materials are conspicuously posted and readily available to employees and that information is complete and current.
  • Review testing data provided by the record keeper.

Plan sponsors not using a calendar year should adjust the time-frame to coordinate with your plan year.

Communicate on a regular basis with your plan advisors. It is recommended that companies meet with plan advisors on a quarterly basis to be sure all compliance and participation have been met, and strategize for improvements.

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