Auto Portability - Public Policy
Learn more about retirement savings public policy positions related to Auto Portability.
RCH's Tom Hawkins summarizes the April 10th EBRI webinar Trends in Employee Tenure, which offered EBRI’s latest research examining broad employee tenure trends, and the impact that shorter tenure has on retirement savings. The webinar’s presenters included Craig Copeland, EBRI and Spencer Williams, Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH), and was moderated by Stacy Schaus, Schaus Group LLC. In his portion of the presentation, Williams introduced the concept of “synthetic tenure” – whereby enhancing system-wide portability -- particularly for small accounts -- enables participants to preserve their savings through job changes, mirroring the success of EBRI’s longer-tenured, “consistent participation” population.
On Earth Day 2019, as we focus on creating a sustainable and eco-friendly environment, it's worth considering how the application of similar principles would benefit our retirement system. America’s 401(k) system is unsustainable – urgently requiring an upgrade to effectively deliver on its intended goal – helping millions of Americans enjoy a timely and comfortable retirement. The good news is that we're beginning to see important signs of action that could ultimately address the problem.
Jack VanDerhei, EBRI Research Director, envisions a critical role for auto portability in solving America's retirement crisis. In a recent symposium conducted by TheStreet in New York, VanDerhei identified four key retirement challenges -- plan coverage, long-term care costs, longevity and leakage. VanDerhei predicted that leakage will be addressed when auto portability "become[s] a part of the retirement landscape" and "little account balances, which are really highly-susceptible to being cashed out" are automatically consolidated into larger 401(k) balances.
In their March 20th webinar "Achieving Retirement Income Equivalency Between Final-Average-Pay Defined Benefit Plans and Automatic Enrollment 401(k) Plans in the Private Sector", the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) revealed more research supporting the case for auto portability, with their finding that auto portability could dramatically improve defined contribution plan performance for young Millennials.
Writing in Lexology, Eversheds Sutherland LLP provides a retrospective of guidance issued in 2018 by the Department of Labor (DOL) under ERISA, highlighting the DOL's sole 2018 Advisory Opinion, which addressed the RCH Auto Portability program. Linking to their earlier analysis of the Advisory Opinion, the authors further speculate on the DOL's motives, stating that "auto portability offers a means to advance the important policy goal of preserving and improving the efficiency of retirement savings, which may account for DOL’s willingness to engage on this issue."
401kSpecialist's Brian Anderson finds a lot to like about auto portability in EBRI's Issue Brief No. 473, which compares outcomes of participants in 401k plans with auto-enrollment against defined benefit plans. The research, says Anderson, shows "how auto-portability in 401k plans could positively impact the retirement security for millions of job-changing Americans by preventing 401k plan leakage before it can occur." Anderson continues, writing: "[t]he concept of auto-portability is a darling of major retirement industry associations, and it’s not hard to see why."
In his 2/19/19 article in BenefitsPRO, RCH's Tom Hawkins examines new research, authored by EBRI Research Director Jack VanDerhei, Ph.D., comparing the retirement income generated by 401(k) plans with auto enrollment against defined benefit (DB) plans. While EBRI's primary objective was to address growing concern over the relative decline of DB plans, the study also identified significant, incremental benefits of auto portability, adding to a growing body of research from EBRI demonstrating that auto portability increases retirement security for 401(k) participants.