For many years, ERISA lawyers argued the merits of creating an investment policy statement for 401(k) plans. They debated whether a written IPS reduced fiduciary liability or increased it? In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor does not require one. On one side of the argument, some believe putting something in writing only provides one more piece of ammunition to supply the DOL. On the other side, there are those who feel outlining an investment due diligence process through an IPS, and then documenting its successful implementation, can reduce fiduciary liability.

Constructing an effective IPS for 401(k) plans is part art and part science. Its structure differs from the traditional IPS template offered by the CFA Institute in that a 401(k)IPS, at least one for a plan using the 404(c) safe harbor provision, necessarily must contain at least three materially different investment objectives. This contradiction runs counter to the traditional IPS structure. We don’t have the space here to provide a detailed outline of a modern 401(k) IPS, but we can offer these five tips to help you build a better 401(k) IPS:

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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook ( Twitter (

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