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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.
A 10/31/19 EBRI Issue Brief -- What if OregonSaves Went National: A Look at the Impact on Retirement Income Adequacy -- examines the impact of a nationwide roll-out of a hypothetical "national" OregonSaves plan, as well as the nationwide adoption of 401(k) safe harbor plans by employers not currently offering a DB or DC plan. Not surprisingly, EBRI finds that the increased access to workplace retirement savings plans generated by these programs produces substantial reductions in EBRI's all-important metric, the Retirement Savings Shortfall (RSS). However, when each program is further paired with auto portability, their benefits are dramatically increased -- from $459 billion to $759 billion for OregonSaves, and from $645 billion to $1.0 trillion for 401(k) safe harbor plans.
The Savings Preservation Working Group (SPWG), a DC-based coalition seeking to promote best practice retirement policies, announced the release of its first Issue Brief. Entitled "Cashing Out: The Systemic Impact of Withdrawing Savings Before Retirement" -- the report examines a range of recent research and data to quantify the vast scope of leakage from the defined contribution retirement system, and "represents the most complete review of retirement leakage data to date." Critically, the SPWG analysis determines that cashout leakage amounts to between $60 billion and $105 billion annually, impacting 4.5 to 6.4 million participants. The group's website is located at PreservingSavings.org.
On 10/11/19, NAPA Net released results of a reader survey addressing the problem of cashout leakage and yielding valuable perspectives on retirement savings portability. Regarding plan-to-plan portability, a theme “echoed repeatedly” was the “complex, manual process that requires significant form completion and coordination.” The poll further found that 82% of respondents had plan sponsor clients who would be interested in a program that automatically consolidated balances. Specifically referencing auto portability, 81% of respondents indicated that they would introduce such a program to a plan, with 75% opining that such a program would make it easier for participants to manage their retirement savings.
ThinkAdvisor's Michael S. Fischer examines the latest Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) research on auto portability, and finds a lot to like. First addressing the magnitude of the 401(k) cashout leakage problem, Fischer notes EBRI's finding that $92.4 billion leaked in 2015, and that each year, 4 in 10 plan participants who leave their jobs will cash out 15% of plan assets. Fischer goes on to highlight auto portability's effectiveness in plugging cashout leakage, accounting for $1.5 trillion in benefits as a standalone policy initiative. Fischer further cites auto portability's benefits to specific demographic segments, and concludes by noting its incremental, beneficial effects when combined with other legislative initiatives that expand access to workplace retirement plans.
In her 8/23/19 article, carried in both PLANSPONSOR and PlanAdviser, reporter Rebecca Moore links the most-recent regulatory actions from the DOL on the RCH Auto Portability program with the 8/15/19 EBRI Issue Brief, which projects the overall, 40-year present value of auto portability at nearly $2 trillion. Moore addresses the key findings from the latest EBRI research, which include new projections of 401(k) cashout leakage ($92.4 billion in 2015), projections of auto portability as a standalone policy initiative, auto portability paired with other legislative proposals, and finally, the beneficial impact of auto portability on specific demographic segments.
401k Specialist Editor-in-Chief John Sullivan reviews EBRI's latest Issue Brief, which highlights the problem of 401(k) cashout leakage, while projecting impressive, beneficial impacts of auto portability on addressing the leakage issue. As Sullivan article leads off, "the numbers are in, and solid" and include analysis of auto portability's benefits as a standalone initiative, as well as in tandem with other policy initiatives that expand plan access. Regarding policies that expand access, Sullivan quotes EBRI Research Director Jack VanDerhei, who states “our analysis further suggests that an auto portability initiative that reduces plan leakage can materially augment such efforts.”
P&I's Brian Croce reports on the new EBRI study examining the impacts of auto portability, finding that the plan feature "would significantly reduce plan leakage" -- estimated by EBRI at $92.4 billion per year. Croce recaps the impressive benefits projected for auto portability under EBRI's RSPM model, and notes the recent actions by the U.S. Department of Labor, who "gave Retirement Clearinghouse the green light to expand its auto-portability program, which is expected to reduce plan leakage and missing participants."
NAPA Net's Ted Godbout reports on a new EBRI study, released 8/15/19, that assesses the impact of auto portability on the nation's 401(k) system. Godbout highlights the benefits of auto portability to the entire system and to specific demographic groups, as well as the benefits of the feature when considered in tandem with other policy initiatives. Godbout concludes by noting that "these latest findings come on the heels of Retirement Clearinghouse receiving final approval from the Department of Labor granting relief from ERISA’s prohibited transaction restrictions to receive fees in relation to its auto-portability program, allowing the firm to move forward."