The New Year is almost upon us, and the year-end paperwork is in your future. It doesn’t seem like we ever get a slow period in working on plans anymore. The onslaught of year-end notices, open enrollment meetings and vendor and payroll updates are now afterthoughts. Well, maybe not afterthoughts, but at least behind us for another 12 months. With so much happening at year’s end and again at the beginning of the New Year, what should plan sponsors be working on or thinking about?

First it is making sure the year-end census is completed correctly with the correct compensation, etc. But after that it is a good time to sit down and evaluate what worked and what did not work last year in regard to the educational plan.

It seems like participants today still have misconceptions as to what retirement will be. I think for a lot of them it is because they cannot visualize it or realize what, if anything, will change. Participants still tell me at meetings that they plan on working in retirement. I think they feel that way because for the most part they have lacked the preparedness or knowledge to plan for retirement, so they feel they will just continue to work.

The problem is they have not thought through the possibility of being unable to work due to personal health reasons, family obligations, or employer issues. I also believe employees will live longer than they expect and need to review or develop a plan around those alternatives. One of the ways plan sponsors can help participants is to drive the education plan around broader financial planning and not just focus on how much to contribute.

As you plan the New Year educational agenda for employees, look for ways to integrate more education around financial planning, even if it is just the basics. It may be a slow acceptance rate to start, but eventually employees will absorb the information and thank you for it.

Lastly, if you have received returned mail from notices or statements over the last quarter, it is a good time to get them updated before too much time has passed. Good steps to follow are the Department of Labor’s guidance on finding missing participants for terminated plans. These steps help plan sponsors find and keep the participant information updated, and it is a good way to keep the plan healthy long-term. I know many plan sponsors think the employees should keep them updated as they make changes, but the fact is that today’s employees do not seem to be engaged in the process of keeping past employers up to date.

The New Year is almost here, and these are just a few steps that can help make 2015 a better year for you and the participants in the plan. Just like a New Year’s resolution personally, it is good to set goals and start with a plan crafting new things to keep the retirement plan front and center with the employees.

Ludwig, ChFC, AIF, CRPS, is an LPL Financial advisor with LHD Retirement. He can be reached at jludwig@lhdretirement.com.

This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors, but is not intended as authoritative guidance or tax or legal advice. Each plan has unique requirements, and you should consult your attorney or tax adviser for guidance on your specific situation. In no way does adviser assure that, by using the information provided, plan sponsor will be in compliance with ERISA regulations.

Securities and Advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC.

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