Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Innovating through crisis: How going virtual helped us improve customer service

 Like so many companies, COVID-19 totally upended how we do business. Our education team’s calendar is usually filled with on-site client visits, allowing them to provide face-to-face guidance to employees on retirement plans. 

Not so much in 2020.

This year, we’ve been pushed to think outside the box, to reimagine how we provide support and education and to establish a new normal for how we do business.

Moving online

Shifting focus to video and phone calls is the (relatively) easy part. Scheduling and logistics of said calls – that’s where things can get tricky.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Addressing student loan debt: Trailblazing companies and possible legislation

A handful of companies have led the way when it comes to student loan debt assistance for their employees. There’s also legislation pending in Washington that could impact the issue.

Watch episode #2 in our video series: For Your Benefit with HANYS Benefit Services. We’re taking a closer look at two such companies that have come up with creative, new employee benefits solutions to tackle the issue and possible legislation coming down the pike. 

The trailblazers: Abbott Labs and Fidelity

Abbott Labs

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Impact of COVID-19 on Open Enrollment


Employers can expect major disruptions to open enrollment this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As such, employers should stay apprised of current trends and begin preparing sooner rather than later.

Trends to Watch

Many organizations are expected to hold entirely virtual open enrollment due to the coronavirus. Virtual enrollment has been trending for several years, and the COVID-19 pandemic is helping to solidify its prominence. A virtual enrollment process typically includes an onlineenrollment platform for selecting benefits, hosting remote meetings between employees and HR, and downloading benefits resources.

Also, many employers are meeting current employee needs through supplemental health plans with an emphasis on overall well-being. Adding optional health benefits can be a way to limit additional employer spending and provide assistance to employees who need it.

Ways Employers Can Prepare

Open enrollment isn’t always a clear-cut process. Employers can review the following strategies and consider how similar initiatives might improve their own open enrollment efforts:
  • Reach out to employees to determine what kind of enrollment process will work best for them.
  • Confer with management about any operational restrictions that may influence open enrollment.
  • Meet with stakeholders to solidify what the enrollment process will look like.
  • Inform all stakeholders about the enrollment process and where to find benefits resources.
  • Communicate to employees about open enrollment using multiple channels.
Speak with HANYS Benefit Services today for additional open enrollment resources. Contact HANYS Benefit Services by email or by calling (800) 388-1963. This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice. © 2020 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

2021 Benefits Planning and COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wage on, its effects on benefits planning for next year are being felt—especially as open enrollment season approaches. According to Mercer's Global Survey #5, 20% of employers surveyed said updating benefits programs to better meet employee needs was an HR area in which companies are seeing an increased need for support.

In addition to considering plan design changes, employers are having to evaluate and adjust their benefits packages for 2021. Some of the most common changes being made for the 2021 enrollment season are outlined in this article.

Potential Cost Increases and Plan Designs

Employers and benefits experts are bracing for cost increases headed into 2021. Health care premium costs have increased at a steady rate over the past few years, with the most recent average increase being around 6%. Actuaries at Willis Towers Watson predict up to a 7% increase in health care premiums in 2021 for both self-funded and fully insured employers.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

5 Strategies for Reducing Health Benefits Costs in 2021


Health benefits costs are almost certainly going to rise in 2021. They’ve been trending upward for years—over 50% in the last decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation— and the current state of economic uncertainty over COVID-19 won’t slow things down. Realistically, after enduring months of business closures and managing exhausted workforces, many employers will be lucky to maintain uninterrupted operations.

That’s why it’s critical for employers to think about reducing health costs right now—figure out cost-effective benefits first so money can be shuffled as needed later. Having a solid plan going into 2021 will better position organizations facing limited budgets.

Here are five cost-reduction strategies employers should explore:

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The impact of student loan debt


Student loan debt affects the financial lives of millions of American workers. Employers feel the burden as well, and have the opportunity to help reduce it. 

The impact of student loan debt on employees

According to a recent Forbes article:
  • 44.7 million Americans have student loan debt;
  • student loan debt is second only to mortgages in consumer debt, at a staggering $1.56 trillion;
  • the average student debt is $32,731 with an average monthly payment of $393;
  • 2.8 million borrowers are in forbearance;
  • 5.5 million borrowers are in default.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Cobleskill Regional Hospital named 2020 Plan Sponsor of the Year

Congratulations to Cobleskill Regional Hospital on being named PLANSONSOR’s 2020 Plan Sponsor of the Year in the nonprofit defined contribution <$500 million category!

Cobleskill's 403(b) plan focused on employees’ wellness. This goes beyond physical wellness and influences the 403(b) plan’s design and approach to educating employees. “Retirement readiness and financial wellness are woven into the fabric of our culture,” says Christine Pirri, vice president, nonclinical operations.

As their plan adviser, HANYS Benefit Services meets often with Pirri and Cobleskill employees for a financial wellness check-up and to explain how a defined contribution plan gives an employee the ultimate responsibility for his own retirement outcome “Once people get that message, they’re much more interested in understanding, ‘How can I make this work?’” says Carol Idone, vice president, consulting, HBS.

The Plan Sponsor of the Year annual award program recognizes retirement plan sponsors that show a commitment to their participants’ financial health and retirement success.

HBS is proud to have worked with Christine Pirri and Cobleskill Regional Hospital to help develop a plan focused on the employee's overall financial well-being!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Preparing for an Unprecedented Open Enrollment Period

Open Enrollment Trends to Watch

Expect major disruptions to open enrollment this year. From an operational standpoint, COVID-19 might surge in the fall and force states to reclose businesses. From a personnel standpoint, employees may not be comfortable returning if they feel unsafe in the workplace. These are two worst-case scenarios, but they exemplify the multitude of potential disruptors stemming from COVID-19 this enrollment period.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

For Your Benefit video series: Episode 2-The monkey on our backs pt.2





Thank you for joining for another episode in our video series: For Your Benefit with HANYS Benefit Services.

Hear from leading experts as we share insight on the employee benefit topics and trends that matter most.

In episode 2, we’re expanding on the student loan debt conversation we started in part one, taking a look at some creative solutions companies are using to tackle this major issue.


Tune in to each episode as we discuss regulations, investments, compliance and all things benefits.

If you have any questions on content from our video or would like to begin talking to a retirement plan advisor, please get in touch by email or by calling (800) 388-1963.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Virtual Open Enrollment Fairs


Open enrollment fairs are a great way for employers and benefits providers to help employees understand and enroll in the benefits programs that meet their needs. These fairs are typically done in person, and they allow employees to learn about available benefits and discuss offerings with providers. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic may be changing what employees need for benefits, the format of open enrollment events should change, too.

With open enrollment season around the corner and many organizations extending work-from-home policies, a virtual open enrollment fair may be necessary. This article explores benefits and best practices for organizations moving their open enrollment events online.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Q2 Market Recap: Extraordinary Times - Extraordinary Markets

With the majority of Americans sheltering in place at the beginning of the second quarter, what reasonable person would have forecast that the S&P 500 Index would have appreciated 20.54%, for its best quarterly performance since its inception in 1957?

The extraordinary turnaround from the February-March bear market restored most of the negative returns investors suffered in Q1.

Read the Q2 Market Recap for a brief review of the market performance. Also included is a summary of IRS guidance impacting retirement plan relief under the CARES Act. 

If you have any questions, or would like to begin talking to a retirement plan advisor, please get in touch by email or by calling (800) 388-1963.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The case for an operational review of your 403(b) plan

Why now?

The plan sponsor community has been woefully unprepared to meet the increased scrutiny of 403(b) plan operations by the IRS, Department of Labor and private auditors. There has been a material spike in plan correction applications, investigations and regulatory penalties.

But don’t just take our word for it. Let your fellow plan sponsors’ experiences tell the tale.

Our webinar featured real life stories about sponsors just like you. Each of them had a “What, me worry?” attitude where their plan was concerned, confident that they had everything well in hand—until everything changed.

Watch this webinar to learn:
  • the pros and cons of conducting a plan operational review;
  • when you should do it; and
  • how much you can expect to spend.

FEATURED SPEAKERS:


Carol Idone
Vice President, Consulting
HANYS Benefit Services
Eric Paley
Partner
Nixon Peabody
Claire Rowland
Counsel
Nixon Peabody

For Your Benefit video series: Episode 1-The monkey on our backs




Welcome to our new video series: For Your Benefit with HANYS Benefit Services.

In this series, you will hear from leading HBS experts as we share insight on the employee benefit topics and trends that matter most.

This episode we're talking student loan debt. How does it affect our financial health and ability to save for retirement? We also touch on what employers are doing to help.



Tune in to each episode as we discuss regulations, investments, compliance and all things benefits.


If you have any questions on content from our video or would like to begin talking to a retirement plan advisor, please get in touch by email or by calling (800) 388-1963.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Understanding Voluntary Benefits

You know the importance of having health care coverage and a 401(k), but are you taking advantage of all the benefits your organization offers? Voluntary benefits are additional benefit options offered through the company. Unlike traditional benefits like health coverage, employees are responsible for paying most or all of the cost of these voluntary options.

What’s the Advantage?
You may wonder–if you’re responsible to pay, then why elect any voluntary benefits? There are several advantages.

Lower Price

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

IRS permits remote notarization of participant elections

The economic and societal lockdowns that have been imposed in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus have presented unique challenges, including some that may not have been contemplated when the lockdowns were instituted.

Congress was quick to pass the CARES Act, which gave retirement plan participants greater access to their plan balances through expanded loan and hardship distribution provisions. However, a stumbling block quickly became apparent when plan provisions required spousal consent for some distributions or loans.

Spousal consent waivers for plans subject to qualified joint and survivor annuity provisions of Section 417 of the Internal Revenue Code generally must be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or a notary public. Similarly, the same spousal consent and witnessing requirements apply to designate a non-spouse beneficiary for a 401(k) or ERISA-covered 403(b) plan. Physical presence can be difficult to achieve in light of stay-at-home orders and temporary business closures.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The DOL expands rules on e-delivery of participant notices

As described in our previous article on participant notices, plan sponsors of qualified retirement plans must routinely provide various notices to participants and beneficiaries regarding plan provisions, investment information, fees and more.  On May 21, the U.S. Department of Labor released new regulations regarding the electronic disclosure of these notices, ushering in an era of convenience for a historically arduous requirement.

Electronic delivery rules have existed for years, but abiding by them has been prohibitive, particularly when delivering to employees not using a computer as an integral part of work duties. The new rules do not replace the existing ones, but instead offer a more feasible alternative to them.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Coronavirus-related distributions 100% taxable for New York state and local income tax purposes in 2020

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27. Under the Act, participants affected by the coronavirus may be able to take distributions in 2020 of up to $100,000 from an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA. Although allowing these distributions from a qualified retirement plan is optional, we have seen that a number of employers have chosen to amend their plans to permit such distributions.

The Act provides that coronavirus-related distributions will not be subject to the mandatory 20% withholding nor the 10% early withdrawal penalty (for those younger than 59½) that would otherwise apply.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Invisible


Investors are understandably concerned about the drop in value of their holdings as the first pandemic in many generations redefined our lives, seemingly overnight. HBS believes that investment processes, grounded in understanding the financial markets and the economy, provide the antidote for impulsive investment decisions.

In The Wealth of Nations, a definitive examination of the practical and moral aspects of a market economy in the pre-industrial age, Scottish economist Adam Smith coined the term invisible hand as a guiding principle. Mr. Smith’s explanation of free-market economics in 18th century Great Britain centered on the belief that market participants always act in their own interest. A marketplace of sellers and buyers making voluntary transactions unleashes powerful economic forces — the invisible hand.

Monday, April 27, 2020

HBS participant education services: Timely help from a safe distance

The current pandemic environment proves how unpredictable this world can be throughout a person’s career and life. That’s why the value of HANYS Benefit Services’ participant education services cannot be overstated: Being there for our clients’ employees is of paramount importance and a key measure of our success. In addition to our plan level consulting services, we offer a dedicated team of highly trained and experienced educators to assist retirement plan participants. Our salaried team members educate employees, with no conflict of interest.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

In Fed We Trust

In March, the market’s “fear gauge,” the VIX, reached 82.7, the highest close in its 30-year history. Daily moves in the S&P 500 averaged +/-5.0% and its 12.0% decline on March 16 was the worst day for the index since Black Monday in 1987. The New York Stock Exchange on March 23 closed the physical trading floor for the first time in its history and moved fully to electronic trading.

As headlines focused on the equity markets, the volatility in the fixed income markets was unrivaled. As investors looked to raise cash, dealers, who typically act as shock absorbers for the bond market, were not able to match panicked sellers with willing buyers. A lack of liquidity occurred in the fixed income market and extreme price dislocations occurred.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Important considerations for retirement plan sponsors during the coronavirus pandemic

We are in unprecedented times and companies are facing a multitude of challenges in many aspects of business. Here at HANYS Benefit Services, we are committed to helping guide our clients through these times. Below are important considerations for retirement plan sponsors during the coronavirus pandemic.
  1. Eye on compliance. Remote work conditions have put distance between many collaborative human resources staff. It’s critical to keep a focus on key administrative tasks such as the timely funding of plan contributions and processing of participant requests. Keeping your retirement plan vendors apprised of any staff reductions and plan changes can help ensure smooth plan administration during this time.
  2. Working with a tighter budget

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID-19: Retirement and Benefit Plan Resources

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, we are closely monitoring news and updates from top sources. We’ll be updating this section as new developments unfold. Here are several key articles and links to help plan sponsors and administrators navigate the COVID-19 impact to retirement and benefit plans:

Retirement Plans

4 key CARES Act provisions for retirement plan sponsors

On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, legislation intended to provide relief to Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to emergency provisions including financial stimulus payments to qualifying Americans, the Act provides certain relief within retirement plans to participants and plan sponsors. Specifically, the Act provides for the following:

  1. Coronavirus-related distributions. Before December 31, 2020, IRA holders and participants in defined contribution plans can withdraw up to $100,000 as a “coronavirus-related distribution.” To qualify, one must have been diagnosed with COVID-19, had a spouse or dependent diagnosed, or experienced adverse financial consequences due to virus-related work reduction. The law refers to such financial consequences as those resulting from being quarantined, furloughed or laid off or having work hours reduced due to such virus or disease, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to such virus or disease, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to such virus or disease, or other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury. Participants can self-certify their eligibility. Administratively, the $100,000 limit applies across all plans of the employer or controlled group.

    Update: Among other important clarifications for plan sponsors and individuals, the IRS guidance released on June 19 expands the availability of coronavirus-related distributions and loan relief. Qualification now extends to those with reduced pay, a rescinded job offer, or a delayed start to a new job due to COVID-19. It also extends to those whose spouse or fellow household member has suffered certain financial effects from COVID-19, including impacts to a business owned or operated by that person.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Markets React to Coronavirus

We have the following observations about the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak on markets. First identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, cases of COVID-19 continue to climb.

Though this coronavirus presents unique challenges, New York’s hospitals and health systems have extensive experience successfully managing outbreaks. In the past 20 years, they have been leaders in tackling the 2003 SARS outbreak, the 2009 influenza pandemic (“swine flu”), the 2014 Ebola outbreak and others.

The vast majority of cases have been in mainland China. However, with more confirmed cases being reported across the globe this week, concerns have become more widespread, particularly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned about the potential impact in the United States.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

FMLA Administration Outsourcing

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for a variety of personal circumstances. Due to the numerous regulations and complexities of the FMLA, administering FMLA leave can be a daunting task for many HR departments. In an effort to make FMLA administration more accurate and efficient, many employers have opted to outsource their leave programs to outside vendors.

Why Do Companies Outsource FMLA Administration? 


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Q4 Market Recap: Roaring into the 20s

U.S. equities continued to roar leading into 2020. The Federal Reserve reversed course on monetary policy in 2019, stimulating both the economy and securities markets.

Read the Q4 Market Recap for a brief review of the 2019 stock market performance and outlook for 2020. Also included is an update on important provisions in the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act.

If you have any questions, or would like to begin talking to a retirement plan advisor, please get in touch by email or by calling (800) 388-1963.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Fiduciary safe harbor for selection of lifetime income provider

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act provides a safe harbor for plan fiduciaries who select a guaranteed retirement income contract, which is defined as an annuity contract for a fixed term or providing for systematic payments guaranteed by the provider to be made over the life, life expectancy or joint lives or life expectancies of a participant and beneficiary.

Retirement plan fiduciaries will be deemed to have acted prudently and will be eligible for the new safe harbor protection if they engage in and document the following process:
  • objective, thorough and analytical search for an annuity provider;
  • consideration of all costs, benefit features and terms of the contract;
  • obtain written assurances from the provider of compliance with all federal and state laws and regulations governing lifetime income solutions, including state insurance laws;
  • as a result of the analysis, the plan fiduciaries should be able to conclude that the provider has the financial strength to fulfill all its obligations under the contract; and
  • the cost of the contract is reasonable (the SECURE Act does not require that fiduciaries select the lowest cost provider).
Annuities may not be appropriate for all plans, but interested plan fiduciaries now have a safe harbor if they wish to consider including them.

If you have any questions, or would like to begin talking to a retirement plan advisor, please get in touch by email or by calling (800) 388-1963.

Don't Get Caught in the Act:

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act

After spending most of 2019 on hold in Congress, the SECURE Act was passed and signed into law on December 20. This is the largest retirement reform act since the Pension Protection Act in 2006 and has a broad focus on improving both the reach and quality of retirement plans, as well as updating several individual tax rules.

While most changes require no immediate action, it’s important for plan sponsors to be aware of changes that may soon impact them. Here is a chart with the most significant changes:

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