Monday, September 26, 2011

403(b) Paperwork is Out of Control - Thank You IRS

Last week I helped a client rollover a 401(k) to an IRA. The IRA was already opened and all we had to do was get online and make the distribution, a few clicks and we were done. Conversely, it could have been done over the phone in just a few minutes. For most 401(k) plans it is a simple thing now to get a rollover processed - not so for non-ERISA Government 403(b). I just finished the paperwork for a client and have my fingers crossed it will make it to all its destinations and not be rejected along the way - my estimate for time of receipt of rollover funds is anywhere from 60 - 120 days. Here is the process:

Open the IRA if it isn't already.
Contact provider of where 403(b) account is held and receive their paperwork.
Contact the TPA of employer where the client worked and find out if they require paperwork...they do. Send all the paperwork to the client to sign (this takes a few weeks to get the forms back and may or may not require a phone call to walk through it with them)
Receive paperwork back and fill it out, check for errors.
Create cover page and send both sets of paperwork (Current Vendor and TPA) to the IRA holder so that the IRA can sign that they are accepting the rollover.
Pray that the IRA provider reads the coverage and keeps the originals, signs where required and then forwards the originals to the TPA.
Pray that the TPA approves the request and doesn't require more paperwork and that the TPA actually forwards the originals to the current 403(b) vendor.
Pray that 403(b) Vendor receives back their account paperwork in good working order and an approval from the TPA to process.

As long as all those steps happen, the rollover should happen...should! Gotta love the 403(b) market.

BTW - the paperwork is having fun traveling, here is a list of its destinations:
Murrieta to Hemet
Hemet to Murrieta
Murrieta to Cincinnati
Cincinnati to Florida
Florida to North Carolina
Check goes from North Carolina to Cincinnati...

Scott Dauenhauer CFP, MSFP, AIF

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lincoln Financial Group - "...extremely profitable business....403(b)"

Lincoln Financial Group has an interesting press release today about how profitable they are, stating:
With $164 billion in assets under management as of July 1st, 2011, Lincoln Financial Group hopes to further increase their already extremely profitable businesses: annuities, disability, life, and group life insurance, as well as 401(k) and 403(b) and savings plans.
I always want the companies doing business in the 403(b) market to be profitable, this leads to better and more innovative services - however it is disturbing to hear a company describing their 403(b) business as "extremely profitable." There is only one way for 403(b) business to be "extremely profitable" and that is on the backs of those participants in their 403(b). Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, MSFP, AIF

Thursday, July 21, 2011

403(b) Regs Waste Enormous Amounts of Money

I'm trying to help a client rollover an account at an old employer in another state. It is a 403(b) and she stopped working for the district back in 1993. It has taken me nearly four months and two paperwork submissions for me to be told that the district can't verify my client ever worked for them - so the plan administrator will not process the rollover. Keep in mind my client has an account that is in the name of that district's plan - thus proof she was employed there. The administrator has had to waste time on this, I've spent several hours on it and now the school district will be forced to go through employment records all the way back to 1993 (which likely means ordering boxes from storage) all so a $5,000 account can be rolled over.

Are you happy IRS? Your regulations could have served to ease the burden on employers and make the 403(b) a better, easier plan -instead it has become an endless drain. Its time to reform the reform.

Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, MSFP, AIF

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Tale of Two, Retirement Plans

A call for revolution in the Government Defined Contribution Retirement plan arena. Click on the link above.

Monday, June 20, 2011

TSA Consulting Group Buys Great American Plan Administrators

The good folks over at TSA Consulting Group have dug deep and entered into an agreement to buy Great American Plan Administrators, or GAPA. GAPA was an arm of the commission fixed and equity indexed annuity company Great American. Great American essentially used GAPA as a loss leader to maintain payroll slots or obtain payroll slots. This allowed them to continue to sell their retail fixed and equity indexed annuity products via commission based sales agents.

There is no disclosure as to what, if any agreement was reached as to keeping those payroll slots open when the administration transfers over to TSA Consulting Group. Though it is unlikely they would sell to a company that planned to shut them out.

TSA CG has a big job ahead of them. Traditionally, GAPA offered free administration services to districts, now those districts will have to pay (though I'm pretty sure the structure will be a vendor pay model). All in all, TSA CG is vastly superior to GAPA and this should expand TSA's reach into parts of the country they don't have a presence.

Scott Dauenhauer CFP, MSPF, AIF

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

LSW, Veritrust & Equita Under Investigation

A California insurance investigator, Mark Colbert is investigating Life Insurance of the Southwest, Veritrust Financial and Equita Financial.

From Mark's website:

In California, Arizona, Texas, Florida and Nevada, agents who've sold life insurance policies, annuities and/or 403(b) products for The Life Insurance Company of the Southwest (LSW), Equita Financial Group, and/or Veritrust Financial Services (VFS) are currently being investigated.

Insurance victims have claimed agents promised that life insurance policies (also referred to as Life Solutions will be "paid-up" in as few as five to seven years and work just like a ROTH IRA.

If you, or someone you know, owns a Life Solutions plan, you/they are encouraged to have an insurance or financial professional (other than someone at one of the companies named above) review it. I have already seen nearly a hundred of these cases in California and Texas and would be happy to speak with anyone who currently owns one of these policies.

You can contact Mark at

Scott Dauenhauer

Thursday, March 24, 2011

P & I: 403(b) participants hurt by unfair rules

I've been saying this for years, its nice to see others echo it.

The link above may not work, so some of the story is reprinted below, it begins:

While there has been significant convergence between 401(k) and 403(b) plans, 403(b) participants are still treated as second-class citizens when it comes to getting the best pricing on their savings for retirement.

401(k) plans are free to have the most appropriate and cost-effective investment structure — including mutual funds, annuities, commingled trusts and separate accounts. But not 403(b) plans.

Instead, because of anachronistic laws, 403(b) participants are limited to mutual funds and annuities — regardless of the size of the plan. This is unfair and counter to our social policy that seeks to encourage working individuals to contribute toward their retirement security.

Essentially arcane 403(b) rules limit participants ability to buy into cheaper investment options. In some plans I work with we can use Collective Investment Trusts to dramatically lower expenses or provide investment flexibility to participants - this cannot be done in 403(b)'s and leads to higher costs.

Of course, this is not the only issue with 403(b) plans, but its a start that Congress should get to work on now.

Scott Dauenhauer CFP, MSFP, AIF

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ronald Reagan: Collective Bargaining = Freedom

Does this sound like the Republican party of today? For all the talk of how Reagan is the role model for the Republican party one wonders if they actually know what Reagan stood for. I rarely get political in this blog, however, the title is The Teachers Advocate and what has happened in Wisconsin is not only a blow for freedom, but an attack on people who are not the ones who have caused this economic depression (that would be government and Wall Street).

Reagan once said that he didn't leave the Democratic party, it left him. I wonder if he would say the same about the Republican party of today.

Scott Dauenhauer CFP, MSFP, AIF

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Two New TIAA White Papers

I have NOT had a chance to evaluate either of these papers. They are for your review only. When I do read, I will be sure to post my comments and thoughts.

Scott Dauenhauer CFP, MSFP, AIF

Reforming K-12 Educator Pensions: A Labor Perspective

Pensions and Public School Teacher Retirement

Monday, March 07, 2011

Crisis In DairyLand: Jon Stewart's take on Wall Street vs. Teachers

Who is more important Wall Street or Teachers?

I might have a unique perspective because I worked on Wall Street and am married to a teacher (full disclosure, I do consulting work for Teacher Retirement Plans). I'm here to tell you, it isn't Wall Street - but you'd never know it by the current discourse. Jon Stewart skewers some people who still cling to the notion that the average teacher is a part-time worker. My wife is a teacher and I can tell you - there is nothing part-time about her work.

Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, MSFP, AIF

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The "Benefit Counselors" Provision in 403(b) TPA Contract

Recently I came across a contract between a 403(b) Compliance TPA and a school district in California that had an interesting provision:

"The "XXX XXXXX" (name of TPA), through its licensed financial professionals ("Benefit Counselors"), will assist Plan Participants regarding their rights, benefits or elections under the 403(b) annuity arrangement upon reasonable request of the Employer. The "XXX XXXXX" may, as part of its Administrator duties, limit access to Plan Participants to those Benefits Counselors who meet its qualifications including professional licensing and adherence to a Professional Code of Conduct."

I cannot be sure that this contract is still in-force, so I'll limit my comments to what I believe is wrong with such provisions in general.

To provide a bit of background, this particular TPA charges a premium fee over most other TPA's in California (80% more compared to a few of the larger players) AND this TPA employs sales agents to sell 403(b) and 457(b) plans. The sales agent part is what is concerning as this TPA is now referring to them as "Benefit Counselors" and is attempting to exclude any other individual from working with the employees of this school district, essentially attempting to establish a monopoly. What is interesting to note is that the Employer via this arrangement has now made a Fiduciary delegation to this TPA to vet potential Benefit Counselors. I have been unable to find anything that talks about what qualifies these individuals to act as "Benefit Counselors" (BC's) and I do not see anything in this agreement that requires these BC's to act in the best interest of the participants, i.e. act as Fiduciaries. The fact that these people are licensed and adhere to a professional code of conduct is meaningless - are they held to a Fiduciary standard? The answer is that they will not be.

So you have an Employer who likely doesn't understand what they are doing making a Fiduciary delegation to a conflicted entity who ONLY allows Benefit Counselors that are loyal to the TPA and owe no fiduciary duty to the participant.

I'm not harping on the monopoly aspect of this, I could support that if the environment was one that contained a duty of loyalty and was based on Fiduciary principles - I am deeply concerned that plan participants may be exposed to sales agents masquerading as qualified "Benefit Counselors" who will NOT act in the best interest of plan participants.

Captive Benefit Counselors of a TPA with full delegated powers who owe no fiduciary duty is dangerous combination.

Scott Dauenhauer CFP, MSFP, AIF

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Money Mag: Index annuities are a safety trap

I am not a fan of Indexed Annuities. Equity Indexed Annuities (EIA) are the reason I started working with educators, so I guess they've done some good! Back in 1997 I came across my first teacher with an Equity Indexed Annuity, one sold by Americo - it was toxic. Sure, you could never lose money (unless you surrendered in the first ten years...), but the index formula was so stacked against the client and so easily manipulated by the insurance company that I believed the client would be lucky to earn 2% annually. I found that this was not only common, but rampant and the last decade has seen nothing but huge growth in these products.

When people ask me if Equity Indexed Annuities are good for retirement, I tell them yes, as long as you are talking about the retirement of the agent selling them. Commissions are huge, incentives are amazing (trips to every exotic locale you can imagine) and most of the agents have never read the contract or can even do the actual crediting method calculation.

Great job to Money Magazine for exposing these scams (something I've been doing now for 13 years).

Scott Dauenhauer CFP, MSFP, AIF