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What Are Top 401k Advisors Doing About Participant Outcomes?

A combination of quantitative, qualitative and a whole lot more

401k participant outcomes, retirement, savingsAdvisors are refining techniques and sharpening skills in this all-important area.

Participant outcomes are what it’s all about, so what are top advisors doing to ensure an affordable quality of life for employees and employers with whom they work?

For some it’s analytical benchmarks that are zealously measured, for others it’s a human connection with an emphasis on keeping it simple.

For all, it’s increasingly about financial wellness and education and picking up the slack for long overdue discussions about the importance of retirement saving.

At Excel 401(k): The Advisors’ Conference in Las Vegas, October 22 – 24, eight finalists to be 401k Specialist’s 2017 Top Advisor by Participant Outcome will reveal in detail the tips and techniques that got them noticed.

For Cafaro Greenleaf founder Dorann Cafaro, it’s a three-step process at the New Jersey-based firm, the first being the calculation of a retirement readiness ratio, the second the determination of an annualized required rate of return and the third is the production and presentation of a Plan Design Optimization report.

Strategic Retirement Partners’ Lisa Petronio employs a combination of quantitative, qualitative and fiduciary aspects to design a custom approach for employers. Using vendor analytics, a whopping 70 percent of her plans’ participants have a predicted retirement income replacement ratio of 70 percent or greater.

Jamie Linkowski from Pittsburgh-based Prime Solutions Advisors partnered with a health insurance colleague to take a hard look at the issue of “financial scarcity” and its effect on worker safety and company liability. Effective employee segmentation and simple behavioral changes in the areas of health and finances led to a $1.2 million cut in prescription drug costs for one plan sponsor.

“We did nothing to plan design, and it didn’t cost the employer a single dollar,” Linkowski explains.

George Fraser, managing director of Retirement Benefits Group in Scottsdale, Arizona reveals a pennies-on-the-dollar metaphor and a great story about a discarded cigarette habit that results in a major participate outcome wins for clients.

Jim Marshall, president of Wisconsin-based Spectrum Investment Advisors, uses coffee (of all things) in a creative way, combined with model portfolios that gives a jolt to the portfolio and savings process, while inspiring participants with speakers and topics that often have little to do with retirement savings.

Michael Kane with Atlanta-based Plan Sponsor Consultants uses straight-up behavioral finance to influence participants and plan sponsors, so much so that he wrote the book (or at least the paper) on the topic for the Journal of Pension Benefits titled “Overcoming Obstacles to Retirement Plan Success: Inertia, Myopia and Loss Aversion.”

He then uses benchmarking metrics to demonstrate improvements in both participant retirement readiness and financial wellness, which include participation rates, deferral rates, and diversification, as well as the existence of emergency funds, reduction in consumer debt, college savings and various risk management categories.

401(k) Specialist columnist Mario Giganti with Cornerstone Capital Advisors, uses a retirement “bullseye process” to help plan sponsors develop long-term objectives, ones that can be broken down into more measurable goals, both for the plan as a whole and for each participant. They include a plan evaluation tool, plan organization report, plan vision statement, a “fiduciary protector,” an employee engagement system and a plan evaluation and measurement program.

Lastly, Jason Chepenik and his team at Chepenik Financial lean heavily on the fun, including their annual 4.01k Race and various retirement parties, which celebrate the concept of retirement saving rather than anyone individual’s retirement.

“The retirement plan industry has done very well with innovation—target date funds, retirement income, plan design, auto features—but not with engagement,” Chepenik notes. “If employees aren’t engaged they simply won’t be successful.”

The 401(k) Specialist 2017 Top Advisor by Participant Outcomes was selected by an all-star panel of independent industry experts. They are:

Even though registration for 401(k) Excel: The Advisors’ Conference is officially closed, advisors are still able to register if they mention 401(k) Specialist. More information and registration can be found at and 910.795.0490.

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