If you want an inside track to 401(k) plan sponsors, become a plumber who can stop leaks. To learn how, begin by reading an informative report recently issued by AON Hewitt: Leakage of Participants' DC Assets: How Loans, Withdrawals and Cashouts Are Eroding Retirement Income 2011. It can be accessed here: www.aon.com/attachments/thought-leadership/survey_asset_leakage.pdf

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Here are a few highlights that show how concerned sponsors are about leaks:

  • Plan loans: 54% of sponsors reported increases in plan loans in the most recent survey, and 94% said they are concerned about excessive loan usage.

  • Withdrawals: 63% of sponsors reported increases in hardship withdrawals; 85% said they are concerned.
  • Cashouts: 33% reported increases in cashouts at retirement or separation; 74% said they are concerned.

An effective "401(k) plumber" helps each plan develop a customized program that combines: 1) participant education on the impact of loans, withdrawals and cashouts; and 2) disincentives to stop retirement plan money from leaking into needs other than long-term retirement security.

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