Exclusive Tell-All from our Retirement Plan Gurus

Well friends, we have a special treat for you today. We’ve brought you the latest insights from some of our best and brightest retirement plan administrators. They answer some hard-hitting questions, including the most rewarding and challenging aspects of their job, advice they have for business owners, and more.

Q: What is your role at EGPS?

Erica: I am a Retirement Plan Consultant, meaning I work directly with clients and manage their retirement plan administration. This includes collecting year end data, running calculations, reconciling assets, verifying deposits, creating annual valuation reports/certificates/notices, compiling IRS Forms 5500/5330/5558/8955, and assisting with distributions. I proactively communicate with clients and answer any questions they may have. I also help with plan design, and correct plans that may be out of compliance (with items such as late deferrals). Working with financial advisors, CPAs and recordkeepers, I help operate a variety of plans (401(k), defined benefit, cash balance, 403(b) plans, etc.).

Alison: I am a Regional Manager and a Senior Retirement Plan Consultant. This means I serve a group of clients (business owners) like Erica. Additionally, I manage a group of Retirement Plan Consultants, assisting them with complicated issues that might arise.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Erica: When my clients don’t need me as much! Part of my job is to educate my clients so they can help keep their plan running smoothly and educate their employees. When they can explain their plan specs and identify who is eligible and when, it’s such an awesome feeling! I operate in the background doing calcs, asset recon, and preparing IRS Forms. Meanwhile, my clients operate on the front line and know what forms to provide their employees… it’s great!

Alison: I love that my job is ultimately helping people save for retirement, which I think should be the most rewarding part of life.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job? 

Erica: Calculations for sure! There are so many IRS parameters (402g limits, 415 limits, deduction limits, benefit testing, etc.) to consider while working to achieve all of your clients’ goals – PHEW. Sometimes I’ve had to re-run a calculation 10 times to get all the testing to pass and get the best scenario for my client. It can feel like you’re shooting at a moving target, but it’s also so rewarding!

Alison: The retirement plan industry is a fast-paced environment with many deadlines.  The most challenging aspect is meeting these deadlines while still providing quality consultation services to my clients, all the while maintaining a good work/life balance.

Q: What should business owners be thinking about regarding their retirement plans right now?

Erica: Employee retention! Business owners are always looking for maximum contributions and maximum deductions; that’s first and foremost. But in this climate, business owners need to provide incentives for employees to come to their firm and stay. “The Great Resignation” (as it’s being called in the news) has seen millions of Americans quit their jobs in the last several months as they feel burnt out and strive for more work/life balance.

Offering a retirement plan to employees is a great benefit to entice potential employees and build loyalty! Having worked in this industry, I can honestly say that if I ever left EGPS, whether or not a potential employer offered a retirement plan would be a big factor in my decision.  

Alison: I agree with Erica – recruiting talent and keeping talent is huge. COVID has changed the office landscape and remote working has become a new normal.  This has created more competition for employers to obtain quality employees.

Employers should think about providing a more competitive retirement plan. One that not only allows employees to save on their own, but also provides additional employer contributions.  This added benefit would show they care about their employees and their future, and would hopefully lead to more employee retention. 

Q: What are the top three pieces of advice you have for business owners looking to set up a plan?  

Erica:

  • Be aware of what’s happening in your state. With all the state-sponsored plans popping up, it’s important for business owners to know and understand their options and what is required of them.
  • Absolutely invest in a third-party administrator (TPA). It’s so important to have someone with experience and specific retirement plan knowledge be able to help setup your plan documents, maintain plan compliance, assist with calculations, asset reconciliation, distributions, etc. While it may seem better to save money and attempt these items yourself, in the long run, you’ll be saving valuable time, energy, and money by hiring an expert.
  • Do your research. What are your objectives? Do you foresee the business doing well, allowing you to sponsor a defined benefit plan for 10 years? Or can you truly not afford the added expense of a TPA, and are looking for the simple, state-sponsored plan solution? Whatever route you go, do your research. You don’t need to be the expert – meet with an advisor/CPA/TPA to help determine the best direction for your firm.

Alison:

  • Set up a plan that benefits you as much as your employees.
  • It’s important to surround yourself with good retirement plan partners (financial advisor, accountant, and TPA) to ensure your plan runs smoothly.
  • When considering your plan design and the costs associated with it, try to think long term.  It might seem expensive up front, but remember all the benefits this plan can have for you and your employees now, and in the future.

Q: What is your favorite success story in all your years of working in the retirement industry?

Erica: In 2021, we took over a plan that was quite messy! The employer was not aware loans were allowed in the plan, and three participants had outstanding loans. Therefore, when they terminated their old provider, they had no idea they had to withhold loan repayments and track them using an amortization schedule. Additionally, the client was never informed that salary deferrals had to be deposited within a certain timeframe, so money was deducted from payroll but not funding the plan for weeks or months.

We worked together with the client and were able to fix the plan. We cleaned up the loans, corrected the late employee deferrals, and implemented new procedures to ensure they would be remitted timely going forward. After multiple calls about the plan, it’s running smoothly now. The client has learned so much! She calls EGPS before making any changes to her plan operations, she can track eligibility accurately and enrolls eligible participants timely, and she has since recommended EGPS to other clients looking for a TPA.

Alison: I can’t pick just one situation, but when I am able to provide my clients with a great plan design, years of support, and ultimately work with them until they retire and close their plan, I feel I had a big part in helping them achieve their goals and dreams.  That is when I feel the most successful!

Q: What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?

Erica: Family time! I love hanging out with my family. Whether it’s a day trip to Lake Tahoe or San Francisco, or a potluck BBQ at a cousin’s house, I just love hanging with my family.

Alison: I love to spend time with my two children and my husband of almost 20 years. I also really enjoy going out to see live music.

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