Why Hiring an Independent Fiduciary Is Good for Your Retirement Plan

by Daniel Halle, Regional Director of P&A Group Retirement Plan Services

As a plan sponsor and fiduciary to your company’s retirement plan, you have certain responsibilities to ensure optimal investments, reasonable fees, and informed participants but, unless you are an expert in plan design, investments and administration, you may be swimming upstream in choppy water. As regulations tighten and employees become better informed, an independent advisor, acting as a co-fiduciary on your plan, can help you navigate these waters smoothly. An independent 401(k) advisor brings expertise in creating a best practices retirement plan and monitoring process that helps protect you from liability and loss, while simultaneously promoting positive participant outcomes. In other words, a good advisor helps you avoid common fiduciary mistakes and creates a stronger plan for your employees.

Fiduciary laws have been interpreted based on the prudent man rule: “was the fiduciary’s conduct in accordance with actions that would have been taken by a prudent person faced with the same situation?” Under ERISA (the set of laws governing 401(k) and other retirement plans), the expected standard for fiduciary conduct is raised from that of a prudent man to a prudent expert, which essentially means, “become an expert or hire one.” Therefore, a fiduciary must be familiar not only with the rules and laws under which they are being held accountable, they also must set up a process by which they monitor themselves, or the experts they hire, in the areas of plan design, investments, and administration.

Also, not all retirement plan representatives are created equal. Retirement plan investment platforms can be sold by brokers and/or advisors. However, there is a big difference between the two. Brokers are held to the Suitability Standard. Under the Suitability Standard, the broker is only tasked with ensuring the investment or product is suitable for your retirement plan but not necessarily in the plan participant’s best interest.  An Advisor, on the other hand, is held to the Fiduciary Standard and is tasked with ensuring the investment or product is in the best interest of plan participant. Understanding the difference and which one you have is important to know. How can you tell if your advisor is a fiduciary to your plan? If an advisor is serving as a fiduciary to your plan, it must be in writing in the form of a fiduciary agreement or contract. If you do not have this, your representative is probably not a fiduciary to your plan.

A good independent retirement plan advisor brings key elements into play that can save you money, backstop your liability and create a stronger plan for your employees. These include:

Focused experience in retirement plan consulting. When you are looking for an advisor, finding one that specializes in retirement planning over other kinds of financial planning means the advisor will be better able to anticipate, understand and relieve pain points related to managing an effective plan.

Independence. Working with an independent advisor provides assurance that funds and service providers receive objective evaluation, without conflict of interest.

Co-fiduciary status. A key benefit of working with an independent retirement plan advisor is their ability to act as a co-fiduciary to your plan. Their expertise and guidance using best practices in plan design, investments, and monitoring provides the prudent expert standard of fiduciary conduct important for your peace of mind.

ERISA expertise. A topnotch retirement plan advisor guides you through ERISA’s changing requirements with a variety of tools, including checklists, forms, education modules, etc., to ensure prudent skill and care.

In-depth knowledge of plan providers. An independent retirement plan advisor is familiar with plan fees, expenses and revenue sharing from throughout the provider marketplace and is able to benchmark your plan among other service providers to show you exactly how your plan stacks up.

Employee education. An experienced independent advisor has the knowledge, communication skills, and collateral material necessary to help your employees better understand their investments and asset allocation.

Transparency. An independent retirement advisor provides in writing full and comprehensible disclosure on all fees received on a direct or indirect basis, including the fee disclosure regulations that took effect in 2012.

The benefits of hiring an independent retirement plan advisor are clear. You want to provide the best retirement plan to your employees and feel confident that you are meeting all of your fiduciary responsibilities, but very likely, you wear many hats. Hiring an independent retirement plan advisor enables you to meet the prudent expert standard, protects you from liability, and promotes the most positive outcomes for participants.

For more information, please contact Daniel L. Halle, AIF, RPA of P&A Group, a proud member of The Retirement Plan Advisory Group, at (800) 688-2611 ext. 5405 or halled@padmin.com.

3 Ways to Reduce Anxiety this Open Enrollment

Blog - OE stress reduction

Practical advice for the everyday worker

Open Enrollment only comes once year, and making decisions that will impact your bottom line for the next 12 months can be overwhelming and daunting.  Where to start?  What to do?  According to a research survey conducted by Unum, nearly half of all U.S. workers spend only 30 minutes or less reviewing their benefits prior to enrolling in plans for the next year.  That’s barely 30 minutes spent on making decisions that could affect you – and your dependents – for an entire year.

So, what can you do about it?

For starters, take a moment to come up with a game plan.  Commit to setting aside some time to review your Open Enrollment options, like after dinner or whenever you have some time away from other responsibilities and distractions.  If you’re married, involve your partner in reviewing your options.  Sometimes even reiterating your choices and verbalizing them to someone else can help you in the decision making process.  Reviewing your benefits can definitely be intimidating, but if you tackle each option piece by piece, it won’t seem as scary.  Cross off each plan as you review it, and count that towards your goal of completing a thorough review.  Benefits may not seem especially exciting, but they’re really important and worth investment of your time.  Often, they can help you and your family when you need it most.

With so many names, clauses and terminology, it can be easy to get confused by industry jargon.  If you’re unsure about what something is or what exactly it means – ask.  Know what you’re signing up for and don’t have buyer’s remorse.  Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to tackling important decisions that affect your hard earned money, so make sure you know what something is before you enroll in it.  Reach out to your HR or benefits department for assistance in clarifying a benefit. You can also go directly to your benefit provider or carrier for clarification.  Many companies have easily accessible toll-free numbers and websites that are full of helpful information.

When reviewing your benefits, it’s important to calculate what you’ll spend on each benefit, such as on your health insurance.  Calculating your total out-of-pocket costs will help you get a better sense of how much will be deducted from your paycheck every pay period so there’s no surprises when your plan year starts.  Equally important is calculating how much money some programs can save you when you sign up, like when you enroll in a Flexible Spending Account.  Pre-tax plans, like a Flexible Spending Account, are a great tool to help you save money on expenses you anticipate on having in the coming year.

Whether you’re an Open Enrollment pro or enrolling for the first time at a new job, take a few extra minutes to read through the benefits your employer offers.  It’s time well spent on important decisions.  Your future self will thank you!

What to Do After You Say “I Do:” How to Change Your FSA Post-Nuptials

Change in status blog (1)

Love is in the air and wedding season is in full swing.  It’s a time of celebration and happiness for many people – let the good times roll!  But wait – don’t forget the necessary practical changes that need to be made during these happy life events.  Getting married should prompt you to review your benefits and determine any necessary changes you need to make, including a special opportunity to change your FSA election.

Yes, there are some situations that allow you to change your FSA contribution outside of Open Enrollment.

A life event or a change in status – like marriage, birth of a child, or divorce – are all special circumstances when you are permitted to change your FSA election amount, regardless of where you are in your plan year.  Normally, IRS regulations state that FSA participants are unable to change their FSA elections and must wait to make any changes during Open Enrollment – unless you experience a qualifying life event. A change in status includes the following:

  • Change in legal status – i.e. marriage, divorce, legal separation or annulment, death of your spouse
  • Change in the number of your dependents due to events such as birth, adoption, placement for adoption or death
  • A termination or commencement of employment by your spouse or dependent
  • A reduction or increase in the hours that you, your spouse or your dependents work, including a switch between part-time and full-time status and commencement or return from an unpaid leave of absence
  • An event that causes your dependent to satisfy or cease to satisfy the eligibility requirements for a certain benefit
  • A change in the place where you, your spouse or your dependent work or reside (Dependent Care FSA)

(For a full outline of what constitutes a change in status, please refer to your company’s Summary Plan Description (SPD), usually available through your HR department or in your benefits package.)

If you experience a change in status, the changes you make to your FSA must be consistent with the change in status.  For example, if you have a child, you can increase your contribution to your FSA, but you cannot decrease it.  However, the IRS does not allow you to change your election below the amount you’ve already been reimbursed for the plan year.  Let’s say you enroll in the Health FSA for $2,000, and you’ve already spent $1,000 from your account.  Your husband changes jobs and you want to lower your election amount.  You cannot lower your election amount below what you’ve already spent, or in this case, $1,000.

Remember:  when you change your FSA election, it must be consistent with the change in status only if the change in status results in you, your spouse or dependent gaining or losing eligibility for a benefit under your employer’s plan, or under your spouse/dependent’s employer plan.  If you want to make changes to your FSA election, you must notify your employer, who will notify the administrator/company who oversees your FSA plan (like P&A Group). Your employer has 30 days to notify the administrator of your change in status event.

So, when the wedding cake is gone and the dancing has quieted down, take a moment to sit down with your partner and review all of your important benefit decisions together.

P&A Group Releases New Mobile Site Features

New Features on Mobile Site (2)

With much anticipation, the enhancements to P&A Group’s mobile site are now live!  You can check them out by going to www.padmin.com on your mobile phone.  The new upgrade provides greater flexibility and control over managing your account(s).  Users will also experience a smoother navigation with a new easy menu option, as shown below.

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Mobile Site Upgrade – What’s New

Now you can perform the following account management tasks directly from your mobile phone:

  • Order a new or additional Benefits Card, or report a card lost/stolen – view all active Benefits Cards and details.

  • Enroll in direct deposit – you can also update your ACH information. Confirmation e-mails are sent to you automatically when changes are made.

  • View denied claim details in real-time.

  • Cancel your COBRA benefits – select what benefit(s) you want to cancel and the effective date. Confirmation e-mails are sent to you automatically when changes are made.

  • Make a COBRA payment or setup recurring payments – update your billing profile to make a single payment, or setup recurring payments that are automatically deducted from your bank account. You can cancel or change your payment frequency as needed.

To access P&A Group’s mobile site, please visit www.padmin.com on your mobile phone and log into your account.

If you have any questions, contact P&A Group’s customer service team Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 10:00 pm ET at (800) 688-2611 or through online chat.


Celebrate National Employee Benefits Day with New Ideas for Open Enrollment

April 2, 2018, marks National Employee Benefits Day, which recognizes all benefit professionals for their commitment to the employee benefits field and the important role they provide int the workplace.

To all benefit professionals, thank you for your dedication to this crucial job! 

At P&A Group, we understand the pressures and challenges employers and brokers face in this frequently changing industry.  We are here to support your efforts in helping your employees understand important benefits through effective, streamlined communication and tiered marketing campaigns.

Prepare for Open Enrollment with P&A Group

P&A Group offers marketing solutions to help communicate important benefit details to your staff.  Whether your Open Enrollment is quickly approaching or it’s months away, we can help you.  Get in touch with our marketing team today to see how we can deliver important Open Enrollment messages to your employees.  Or, shoot us an e-mail at marketing@padmin.com and we’ll reach out to you directly.


Open Enrollment Communications


Last Minute Ways to Use Your FSA Before the Grace Period Deadline 3/15

March 15 Deadline

If your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan is on a calendar plan year (January 1 – December 31) and your plan offers the grace period, you have until March 15, 2018 to spend any unused money currently available in your 2017 Health FSA.  After March 15, unused money will be forfeited under IRS rules.  (Note:  your plan also has a run-out period, which is when you can submit claims for expenses incurred during the plan year and grace period.)

Don’t panic – whether you have a significant balance remaining or just a few dollars, here are some helpful ideas to exhaust your account quickly!

  • Stock up on eligible healthcare items.
    P&A Group’s vendor partner, FSA Store, offers thousands of pre-approved discounted FSA eligible items that are ready for purchase online.  Earn points on items you purchase and get free shipping on orders $50+.  Sample items:  blood pressure monitors, pain relievers and travel essentials.  Browse eligible expenses.
  • Dental and vision expenses. Did you know that your Health FSA also covers dental and vision costs?  Use your FSA to purchase eligible items like glasses and contact lens solutions.  If you’re able to squeeze in an appointment to see your dentist or optician, use your FSA to pay for the cost of the visit.
  • Over-the-counter prescription medications.  OTC medications, like Tylenol and Benadryl, require a doctor’s prescription in order to be reimbursed from your FSA.  FSA Store has a built-in prescription process in place to make the process easier.  Simply provide your physician’s info and FSA Store handles the rest.  Learn more

To help you determine the right amount to contribute to your FSA annually, check out P&A Group’s interactive calculator.

You’re Invited! Plan Refresh:  The Impacts of Re-enrollment on Plan Fiduciaries & Participants 

business hand typing on a laptop keyboard with Webinar homepage on the computer screen internet website web page concept.Please join us on March 22 for this FREE webinar!

Plan Refresh:  The Impacts of Re-enrollment on Plan Fiduciaries & Participants 

This webinar will cover the following:

  • The challenge that plan sponsors and participants face when it comes to contributing to a plan
  • What is a plan refresh?
  • Mapping versus defaulting methodologies
  • Key considerations
  • Common misperceptions
  • Communicating with participants

Presented by Michael Viljak, Senior Plan Advisor and Jonathan Coombs, Investment Analyst

Date:  March 22, 2018

Time:  1:00 pm – 2:00 pm ET

Register below, or contact Richard Swanson, Regional Director of P&A Group Retirement Plan Services, to register @ swansonr@padminx.onmicrosoft.com.


Earn SHRM and HRCI CE credits.  This session is pre-approved!

SHRM logo 15-16   HRCI Logo


New Inflation-Adjusted Amounts Announced

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The IRS announced new inflation-adjusted amounts under the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017, which modified the contribution amounts to the below plans.  These changes are retroactive to January 1, 2018.

Adoption Assistance Flexible Spending Account

The maximum amount that may be excluded from an employee’s gross income under an employer-provided adoption assistance program for the adoption of a child is now $13,810.  This is a $30 decrease from the previous amount.

Health Savings Account

The annual contribution amount for family coverage has been lowered to $6,850.  Previously, it was $6,900.

For any questions, please contact your P&A Group account representative.

Your Guide to Submitting a Dependent Day Care FSA Claim

DCA Claims

Here is everything you need to know to successfully submit a Dependent Day Care FSA claim for approval.

The following items must be provided with your claim submission:
  1. Completed claim form with employee signature
  2. Invoice/receipt from service provider* (see below)
  3. If an invoice/receipt from your provider is unavailable or does not include all the information below, ask your provider to sign your claim form in the provider signature box. The provider-signed claim form will be accepted in lieu of an invoice/receipt. To access your claim form, log into your P&A Group My Benefits account here and select Claim Form under Quick Links.
*Itemized invoice/receipt from your service provider must include:
  • Service start/end dates
  • Provider name
  • Service description
  • Amount

Choose from one of three ways to submit a claim to P&A Group.

How to Submit a Claim

Option 1: Upload a claim and receipt by logging into your account at www.padmin.com.  Select Upload Claim/Documentation under Member Tools and follow the prompts on your screen.

Option 2: Use P&A Group’s mobile site to upload a claim and receipt through QuikClaim. Go to www.padmin.com on your mobile device.

Option 3: Log into your account at www.padmin.com and complete a claim form (located under Forms).  Once completed, fax or mail it to P&A Group, along with a copy of your invoice/receipt.

Important Reminder: your receipt MUST include the service provider start and end dates.

Sample Eligible Expenses

  • Nursery schools, day care centers
  • Summer day camps
  • Before and after school care
  • Day care centers
  • Senior day care

Sample Ineligible Expenses

  • Overnight camps
  • Nursing homes
  • Late payment fees
  • Expenses incurred for purpose other than allowing you (or your spouse) to work.

How to Get Reimbursed

The fastest and easiest way to receive your money is by signing up for direct deposit!  When you enroll in direct deposit, your funds are automatically deposited into your checking or savings account.  Sign up for direct deposit right online by logging into your P&A Group Account.  Select Direct Deposit under Quick Links.

If you don’t sign up for direct deposit, you will receive a reimbursement check at your home mailing address.