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Auto Portability's Foundational Research
Auto portability is supported by a broad base of empirical research that clearly demonstrates the problems facing American workers (job-changing, systemic friction and 401k cashout leakage) as well as the solution: moving retirement savings forward when participants change jobs.
EBRI's CEO Lori Lucas is featured in the current issue of Retirement Management Journal in an article entitled: “The Visionaries Series – Lori Lucas, CFA – The Economic Importance of Employee Benefits for Americans Financial Security.” In the wide-ranging piece, Lucas is interviewed by RMJ editor-in-chief Robert Powell, along with Stacy Schaus, founder & CEO of Schaus Group LLC. Lucas explains EBRI's efforts to bring clarity to the problem of cashout leakage, as well as their ongoing efforts to analyze the impact of auto portability on preserving Americans' retirement savings.
NAPA Net's Ted Godbout reports on new research from Alight Solutions that examines the problem of small account cash outs, and its highly-detrimental effect on retirement income. Whereas 4 in 10 job-changers of all balances cash out, the numbers skyrocket for balances less than $5,000, and when compound interest is considered, the lost retirement income is surprising. Godbout notes that the study highlights new technology, referencing "the emergence of auto-portability programs, such as one offered by the Retirement Clearinghouse."
Alight Solutions has released updated research (The impact of small amount cash-outs on retirement income) that addresses the impact of small-balance 401(k) cashout leakage. For those with balances less than $1,000, the study finds that 80% cash out, and with balances between $1,000 and $5,000, nearly two-thirds cash out. The study also observes that "new and innovative ideas, such as auto portability, can help curb this leakage and preserve retirement assets."
Writing in 401k Specialist Magazine, RCH's Tom Hawkins recaps a 9/13/21 Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) webinar (The Impact of Proposed Legislative Changes on Retirement Income Adequacy). In the webinar, EBRI Research Director Jack VanDerhei presented an analysis of pending legislative changes, including automatic contribution plans and arrangements (ACPAs), paired with a refundable saver’s credit. Unsurprisingly, the benefits for these policy initiatives were quite large. However, what was truly surprising was the sheer magnitude of incremental benefits delivered by the addition of auto portability, significantly paring retirement shortfalls for 35–39-year-olds, across all race and ethnicity categories.
Writing in 401k Specialist Magazine, RCH’s Tom Hawkins examines a retirement savings leakage study from the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan committee of the United States Congress. Released with little fanfare on 4/26/21, the study confirms the findings of earlier research on cashout leakage – namely, that cashout leakage is a big problem, is driven by job changing, and is exacerbated by "forced distributions and [a lack of] portability of plans.”
EBRI CEO Lori Lucas, testifying on retirement security before the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on 5/13/21, targets "reducing plan leakage" as a key policy initiative, and identifies auto portability as a solution that could dramatically lower cashout leakage levels. Lucas points to EBRI research that quantifies auto portability's projected benefits of $2.0 trillion when applied to all balances, $1.5 trillion when applied to balances less than $5,000, and its ability to significantly boost the benefits of other policy initiatives, such as open MEPs.
Reporting on EBRI's release of their 31st Annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS), BenefitsPRO's Alan Goforth highlights the survey's key finding that "nearly nine in 10 employees with access to an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan consider auto-portability to be a valuable benefit" while observing that "those participants who stand to benefit the most from auto-portability — including minorities, younger participants and lower-income workers — want it most." Goforth quotes RCH founder, president and CEO Spencer Williams, as well as EBRI president and CEO Lori Lucas.
On 4/26/21, The Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan committee of the United States Congress, released the report "Estimating Leakage from Retirement Savings Accounts." Taking a novel approach, the report examines tax data to calculate a "leakage ratio" that represents the ratio of net distributions to net contributions for participants 50 or younger. The study clearly identified job-changing as the chief cause of leakage, finding that the leakage ratio is 26% in the "year of the event" but remaining high in years 2-5 that follow. The report further concludes that the use of "forced distributions and portability of plans likely affect leakage."