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Who’s responsible for this situation? November 26, 2014

Posted by forwardfinancialplanning1 in 401k plans, Financial Planning, Retirement Savings.
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Numerous articles have been written about how grossly underprepared Americans are for their future retirements. Is it the individual’s lack of discipline in saving? Or, do we point the finger at poorly designed employer sponsored retirement plans?

A recent study by the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute reveals how employers make this call. The research found that a third of employers give their retirement plans a grade of “A” and 46% give their plans a “B”. However, only a quarter of employers give their employees’ savings habits an “A” and 36% give their employees a “B”. A grade of “C” was given to employees 29% of the time, a “D” grade 8% of the time and an “F” grade 1% of the time.

The research study was conducted in late 2013 and early 2014. More than 1,500 plan sponsors were interviewed.


Has day-to-day complexity overwhelmed our ability to adapt? November 14, 2014

Posted by forwardfinancialplanning1 in Financial Planning, Health Insurance, Personal Budgets, Retirement Savings.
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Those who study evolution stress that the species that survive are not always the strongest, but rather, the species that can best adapt to change. One has to wonder if “a failure to adapt” is at work in present day America.

Being a child of the 1950’s I can’t help but reflect back to the financial/health care world in which I grew up. My parents did a respectable job of providing for us, without needing to know a single thing about IRA’s, 401k’s, variable annuities, Health Maintenance Organizations or insurance company pharmaceutical formularies. But, in order to thrive in the USA of 2014, learning about these and other financial/health care concepts is an essential survival skill, This blog has often lamented about the abysmal state of financial literacy in today’s working age population. A recent Kaiser Foundation study has provided me with similar concerns regarding health insurance literacy.

The Kaiser Foundation found that given appropriate data, only 16% of respondents could accurately calculate out-of-pocket costs for an out-of-network lab test. Only 33% could define a formulary while just 51% could calculate out-of-pocket costs for a hospital stay. Further, only 72% could define a health care deductible and 76% could define a health care premium. Since only 4% answered all ten survey questions correctly, it’s probably safe to say that a lot of mistakes and poor decisions are being made in this facet of day-to-day living.

So my question arises once again, “Has the complexity of our modern financial/health care world exceeded the general population’s ability to learn and adapt???”

Useful or Useless???? November 11, 2014

Posted by forwardfinancialplanning1 in 401k plans, Retirement Savings.
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As an avid reader of the financial media, I am exposed to an enormous amount of data and statistics. Often, a survey finding or statistical fact will help to make me a better financial planner. But occasionally, I’ll come across a study that publishes results which cause me to wonder, “Interesting facts, but most likely useless information.”

A recent report from Judy Diamond Associates published employee 401k participation rates by state of residence. Delaware came in at #1 with 85.8% of eligible employees saving within their 401k plans. Nevada came in last at 53%. The top five states in order were: (1) Delaware (2) Connecticut (3) Iowa (4) New York and (5) Arkansas

Should the policy makers from Delaware take a bow? (Thank goodness the elections are over because I’m sure some Delaware incumbent would try to take credit for the top rating). Should Nevada start a retirement planning program in their schools? And, even though the participation rate in Delaware is high, it’s possible that the majority of the account balances are puny, or funded only via non-elective employer contributions. We simply don’t know enough to make any meaningful inferences.

Thus, I’ll toss this study into the “useless” bin.