One of the many advantages that plan sponsors contribute to their employees' retirement plans is the ability to keep the many requirements and responsibilities of running a plan in context to the overarching goal of the plan, its participants and the organization.

The beginning of the year, already being ripe with goals and resolutions, is a perfect time to do this. After all, what else are plan sponsors to think about when they’re at the gym meeting other goals? Here’s some ideas to start the year off right.

1) Reflect on plan objectives. Employers should occasionally take a step back and reflect on why they offer a retirement plan to their participants. The objective should be simple: Help the end participant retire on time and with dignity. If the focus remains on participant success, secondary goals such as reducing fees or increasing contributions, may be achieved in tandem.

2) Work to ensure plan administration runs like clockwork. Administration could be considered the backbone of successful retirement plans, and now is the time to consider upcoming administrative tasks, reflect on missteps from the prior year, and correct or improve existing processes. Employer plans should have procedures and comfort with their responsibilities. Establish a timeline for beginning of the year tasks, such as census data gathering and working with TPAs on Form 5500 filing. The deadlines will be here before you know it.

3) Build an education program. Employees with healthy financial lives may be more productive and beneficial to organizations. Those who do not have healthy financial lives potentially spend a fair amount of their workdays worried about their financial affairs. To craft effective education programs, employers must consider that for many participants, their focus extends beyond the organization’s retirement plan. Tap into the subjects that are top of mind for employees and make that the focus of education over the next year.

Also see:The 15 biggest HR challenges in 2018.”

4) Perform an objective review of plan investments. Strength in financial markets over the last year makes many strategies look compelling. Remember that a bull market does not equal brilliance. Understand what is working, not working and whether the investments are built to withstand different market environments. Just as markets go up, they may go down. Ask the question: Why are we including this option in the plan? Write the answer down and put it in the compliance file.

5) Benchmark plan features. Remembering the primary objective of timely and healthy retirements for the plan’s participants, employers should look out into the industry and the plan’s competitors to see what plan design features are considered best practice or that most align with helping participants work toward improving their retirement readiness. The secondary effect of improving the plan’s competitiveness against peers certainly helps. Consider auto features and stretch matching strategies as ways to possibly improve retirement readiness while aiming to maximize plan sponsor return on investment.

Above all, always remember the participant. Focus on their success and plan-level success should follow. Good luck, and here’s to a great year.

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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