The year 2013 has flown by with a flurry of activities. With the roll-out of the public health insurance exchanges and various new regulations for retirement plans, the end of the year was anything but typical. It’s now January and time to put together retirement plan resolutions for 2014.

Has the U.S. Department of Labor knocked on your door recently? For many employers it’s not a matter of if but when. Will you be prepared? It starts with good record retention. What should you keep, for how long and how should you organize it? Several rules of thumb:
• Plan documents should never be discarded. This includes the basic plan document, adoption agreement, amendments and summary plan descriptions.
• Annual filing reports should be maintained for six years. This includes the 5500’s (even though they are now electronically filed) and supporting materials for contributions, testing results, plan audits, summary annual reports and distribution records.
• Participant records should be maintained during the participant’s employment and at least six years after their termination. This includes enrollment forms, beneficiary forms and distribution forms. Loan records should also be maintained at least six years after the loan is paid off.

As for organizing your fiduciary file, I suggest a format that includes the following sections:

1) Documents — for all plan documents, amendments, tax filing, etc.
2) Administrative — for all audit results, contribution records, plan review meeting minutes, fee benchmarking and participant complaints.
3) Participant communication — copies of all enrollment materials, communication memos and meeting sign-in sheets.
4) Investments — listing of portfolio with expenses, investment review meeting minutes and documents regarding any investment changes made by committee.

The key is twofold: Keep the things you need and store them in a place where you can easily find them.

Plan review
Now that we have covered records and retention, what should you be doing to review what happened with your plan in 2013?

In January, send payroll and employee census data to the plan’s record keeper for plan year-end compliance testing (calendar-year plans). Audit fourth quarter payroll and plan deposit dates to ensure compliance with the DOL’s rules regarding timely deposit of participant contributions and loan repayments. Verify that employees who became eligible for the plan between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 received and returned an enrollment form.

In February, update the plan’s ERISA fidelity bond coverage to reflect the plan’s assets as of Dec. 31 (calendar-year plans). Remember that if the plan holds employer stock, bond coverage is higher than for non-stock plans. Issue a reminder memo or email to all employees to encourage them to review and update, if necessary, their beneficiary designations for all benefit plans.

Also, review and revise the roster of all plan fiduciaries and confirm each individual’s responsibilities and duties to the plan in writing. Ensure that each fiduciary understands his or her obligations to the plan.
Remember that an ounce of prevention can go a long way if you are ever audited. Be ready in 2014.

Ludwig, ChFC, AIF, CRPS, is a financial adviser with LHDretirement. Reach him at

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