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Get the Most Out of Your Employer Retirement Plan – and Your Advisor

Get the Most Out of Your Employer Retirement Plan – and Your Advisor

September 28, 2021

If you are a small business owner or an HR professional, managing your employer retirement plan is probably not among your favorite things to do. You are a busy person – running a successful business, or handling day-to-day operations is hard work! It can certainly seem like an extra burden to be expected to know optimal retirement plan design, or what mutual funds your new employees should invest in, or even where to start with these sorts of issues.

While managing an employer retirement plan isn’t what a lot of small business owners signed up for, these days it comes with the territory. Most of us turn to professionals to guide us in answering our employer retirement plan questions. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some best practices for getting the most out of the professional relationships you have with your employer retirement plan partners.

Step 1: Work Toward a Goal With Your Questions (And Lean On Your Hired Help!)

You hire help to lighten your workload, not increase it. To that end, make sure you’re asking the right questions of your current financial advisor when the two of you chat.

Do you want to start a new plan? Move from a Simple to a 401(k)? Re-evaluate your record keeper? Take care of your fiduciary responsibility with a quick review? Lower costs? Increase savings? Make your life simpler and offload administrative tasks? Add a safe harbor or a Roth provision? Completely overhaul the plan? All of the above?

The most important thing is to work toward a goal with your questions. Remember, your advisor works for you. It’s his or her job to answer your questions and help you formulate the questions you may not have considered. While having an idea of what needs to be done is a good start, a good employer retirement plan advisor will ensure that you are aware of options that might not be on your radar.

Step 2: Be Mindful of Your Fiduciary Responsibility

As fiduciaries for retirement plans, our job is to provide independent, unbiased, forward-thinking guidance and objective, resourceful oversight for plan sponsors. Why? So you can focus on running your business while knowing your retirement plan satisfies required guidelines and uses industry best practices.

With many employer retirement plans, it is all too easy to “set it and forget it.” While this approach has the advantage of lightening your workload, it comes with some risks.

Most plan sponsors have a fiduciary responsibility to their plan and the plan’s participants. That means the plan sponsor should partner with an Advisor that is required to act in the best interest of the plan participants. We provide fiduciary advice regarding investment lineups, platform searches, education and communication and ERISA-related issues that limits their liability. Failing to do so can open the plan sponsor up to legal liability. It is a good idea to build plan reviews into your workflow for managing your employer retirement plan to make sure you are attending to your fiduciary responsibility. Take notes and keep records!

Step 3: Change with the Times

The employer retirement plan landscape has changed considerably in the past several years. Not only have there been innovations in plan design, but the law itself around employer retirement plans is also changing. In 2019 the SECURE Act was passed, incentivizing plan features like auto-enrollment with tax credits, and changing the RMD age, among other things. 

Just as our personal goals change as we grow older, so too do our business goals. An advisor who specializes in employer retirement plans can help ensure that your business goals evolve with the changing legal landscape.

In sum, make sure you are getting the service you need from your advisor. And never be shy to seek a second opinion. Want to see how much your retirement plan actually costs? Schedule a review of your retirement plan or email us at

Tom O'Hare is an Administrative-Only Registered Representative and does not provide securities or advisory services.

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