“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.” General Smedley Butler, USMC
General Smedley Butler, USMC, Shedding Some Light on the Military Industrial Complex November 23, 2012
Why 401(k) Fee Disclosures May Fall Short November 17, 2012
BY: Anthony Kippins
Nov. 8, 2012
Quarterly 401(k) statements have always been vague at best regarding the fees that are being deducted from your accounts.
New federal rules concerning these fee disclosures were supposed to change all this, creating new clarity so that employees could easily see just how much they’re paying to whom for what.
But, as is often the case with new regulations, the federal rules aren’t having the intended effect — at least not yet. Instead, the large companies that provide these plans are testing the regulatory waters by disclosing fees in account statements in less-than-transparent ways, making it extremely difficult for employees to figure them out.
Doubtless, the issue of whether many plan providers’ statement modifications comply with new rules of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will be the subject of extensive back-and-forth between the lawyers for the government and those for plan providers, who will argue that their companies are complying with the letter of the law (if not its spirit).
In the meantime, the tens of millions of employees in these plans still owe it to themselves and their families to get a grip on fees. Because plan providers have made this tough, with some of them gaming the new disclosure rules, most employees should ask their employers about it.
Does your plan have an independent advisor who can sit down with you and look at your fall account statement? If so, take advantage of his or her services to get a handle on your fees. If your plan doesn’t have an independent advisor, why not? After all, employee education and assistance is an important part of your employer’s responsibilities concerning these plans. This should also be a matter of concern to your HR department because the DOL requires companies to assure that fees are reasonable for the services being provided.
If all this seems like a lot of trouble, sit back and recall the last time you went to four different tire dealers to get the best price. Now ask yourself: Have you been opening and reading your 401(k) statements? This would be a good time to start. Paying higher-than-necessary fees can scramble your retirement nest egg and cut deeply into the resources you’ll need during retirement.
Fees aren’t the only significant factor determining how much you’re able to invest for retirement. Most 401(k) plans are underfunded, meaning that the holders don’t accumulate enough money to retire with dignity. Of course, not everyone makes enough to assure this. But many people could be contributing to their plans out of each paycheck by spending less on unnecessary items.
Some 401(k) holders aren’t taking full advantage of their employers’ matches to their contributions, so they’re leaving free money on the table. Again, it’s difficult for many to contribute enough because of the way their current, legitimate expenses stack up against their incomes. The point is to do the best you can to get the best possible retirement finance outcome for your individual situation.
In addition to fees coming out of your account, be sure to ask your plan’s advisor about the rationale for how the money in your account is being invested. This is a complex process foreign to many people who aren’t trained in financial matters, including many college graduates.
Arranging the right mix of investments in the right amount and adjusting for your personal risk tolerance requires basic knowledge of modern portfolio theory — a set of market maxims and principles that must be carefully applied. And to get the best results, the investments that you buy as a result must be carefully monitored and tweaked, or fundamentally shifted, as you go along.
Ask the advisor about the calculation for your retirement resources. Basically, here’s how that works: If you invest x amount a year for x number of years and receive an average return of x and inflation is x, then as of x date you’ll likely have about x dollars a year that you can take out of your investment accounts.
How much money you’ll have and need henceforth depends on a number of market and personal factors, including how long you’ll live. Look at your current plan contributions to see whether you’re on track. Chances are, you’re not. This calculation is no easy business, but with the right advice, you can make a stab at it.
If HR says your company doesn’t provide plan education and advice, ask them to check and see whether they’re paying for it. Ask them to check the documentation that all service providers are supposed to have filed with plan sponsors last spring, called a covered service agreement. In it, these service providers must state what they’re doing for plans and how much they’re charging for each service.
If your plan is paying for these services but not getting them, it may be time to change service providers. By working with your employer to get better advice, you and your fellow employees can get more out of your plan for the long haul and assure a better-funded retirement.
Your Trustee-to-Trustee Transfer November 12, 2012
During the process of setting up your self administered, custodian free Solo 401k, you will at some point want to transfer the funds from your old custodian to your new retirement account.
Beware of your previous custodian’s potential errors when requesting your “trustee-to-trustee transfer” after you establish your trust account for your new retirement vehicle.
A trustee-to-trustee-transfers occurs when the current custodian of your retirement funds transfers the funds to the new custodian (you).
Within the retirement industry, the term trustee-to-trustee-transfer is usually used to refer to a transfer, where the assets are moved nonreportably between accounts of the same type.
The trustee-to-trustee transfer is a nonreportable transaction, which means that no 1099-R or 5498s are issued for the transaction.
Trustee-to-trustee transfers between accounts can occur for an unlimited number of times during any period.
Individuals who opt to have a check sent to them should exercise extreme caution when the check is requested.
Check to make sure that any paperwork completed is a ‘transfer’ request and not a distribution request.
Make it clear to the issuer that a 1099-R should NOT be issued for the amount.
Ask the issuer for a letter or some other confirmation that the transaction is a nonreportable transfer, and provide it to the receiving financial institution.
Get confirmation from the receiving financial institution will deposit it as a nonreportable transaction, and ask for assurance that they will not issue a 5498 for the amount.
It is fairly common for your previous custodian to be confused as to what is occurring. You may have to clarify your intentions repeatedly. Clearly state that this is a trustee-to-trustee transfer, not a distribution.
Occasionally clients have had to request a supervisor, or someone who is more knowledgeable on the subject of transfer requests.
Fear not, you’ll get beyond this bump in the road. The short-term frustrations of dealing with large financial institutions that stifle transactions, are just that, short term. Soon you’ll be able to brush the layers of roadblocks to the side and transact for yourself on your own schedule.