Understanding that our clients have diverse needs when it comes to their retirement plans, Caldwell Trust Company offers a full array of retirement plan services. Our consultative, hands-on approach helps our clients navigate complex issues and make informed decisions regarding their plans.
Partnering with the Right Trustee Is Key to Successful 401(k) Retirement Plans (working title)
Establishing a 401(k) retirement plan for employees can offer many benefits to business owners by attracting and retaining good employees, providing valuable tax advantages, and creating greater retirement security not only for employees but for owners and their families. It also is a highly regulated and complex area that–if not handled correctly–can burden owners with additional responsibility and potential liability.
“Owners are looking for a partner to help them in this area because it is so highly regulated that you don’t know what you don’t know,” said R. G. “Kelly” Caldwell, CEO and President. Because a 401(k) plan entrusts business owners to manage money that does not belong to them, plans must comply with the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which sets standards for private industry pensions and criminal and civil penalties if those standards are not met or funds are misused.
“Many business owners aren’t aware that if they have an insurance company or brokerage house providing their 401(k) that they themselves may be the trustee of their own plan with the responsibility and liability that goes along with that role,” Caldwell said. “It’s the difference between buying a product where the salesman walks away after the sale versus paying a fee to someone who provides ongoing service. In our case, we prefer to offer ongoing trust services for a fee and will not accept a commission from anyone for the investments we select so that we have no conflict of interest.”
Being a trustee includes responsibilities for designing the plan, selecting and monitoring the performance of investments, ensuring fees are reasonable, and communicating effectively with employees about their options and investments and helping to ensure they are happy with the plan. “Even if an employer pays someone to advise them regarding investments or has a manager with authority to choose investments, the employer still retains the trustee role,” said Tony Blasini, Vice President of Employee Benefits. “They may not be aware that 70 percent of 401(k)s audited by the Department of Labor have at least one discrepancy. At Caldwell Trust, as retirement plan fiduciaries, we offer discretionary trustee services to help the plan stay in compliance.”
While there are responsibilities that go along with offering a 401(k), there are significant tax and other benefits. Sixty-nine percent of employees said they might choose one job instead of another if it offered better benefits, and having a 401(k) also can help business owners achieve their own retirement goals, Caldwell said. Many times owners spend years channeling their financial resources into growing their businesses at the expense of retirement savings, and there are strategies that can help with that.
“Often a business has to have a 401(k) plan in order to provide a retirement plan for the owner,” Caldwell said. “Because of his background and experience, Tony Blasini, CPC, QPA, is really good at coupling a 401(k) with plans, such as a cash balance plan, for owners and their families.” Blasini recently joined Caldwell Trust’s employee benefits department and has more than 30 years of experience with retirement and pension plans, including design, administration, implementation and document review for legal compliance, and in holding educational meetings for plan participants. He is certified by the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries as a Certified Pension Consultant and, since 1998, as a Qualified Pension Administrator.
Because the firm also offers a full range of fiduciary services to individuals, Caldwell Trust often helps business owners with personal financial planning needs as well including trustee services, custodian, investment advisor, financial manager and personal representative. “We help our clients with their 401(k) requirements and personal retirement planning all in one place,” he said. “Many times we start working with a business owner who wants to save more money for retirement, but then get into estate planning and other issues. Maybe they have a child they are worried about, and we end up developing plans for the owner’s family. By being a trustee, we are able to take care of their spouses and children after they are gone.”
Business owners are welcome to come in and discuss a new or existing 401(k), and the first step for prospective clients often is a complimentary assessment of their plan, Caldwell said. “Whether we are working with an individual client or a business owner’s 401(k), we take care of people,” he said. “Our clients want a partner that can help navigate risk and provide them with peace of mind, and that’s what we do.”