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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Managing 401(k)s Overwhelms Most People

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Everyone would love to have more money for their retirement years, but when it comes to actively managing a retirement account, or rebalancing 401(k) portfolios to take advantage of the highs and lows of financial markets –well, most people just do not take the initiative.

In fact, plan sponsors say that getting people to even enroll in company offered retirement programs is a real chore, and many despair over the future financial situation of their clients and employees.

Yet the lack of involvement in company-sponsored plans is not really due to inertia on the part of the population, according to John Ring, managing director of retirement plan services at Brinker Capital–one of the nation’s largest providers of managed account and mutual fund services, with over $5 billion under management. For many people, wading through and then deciphering the onerous amounts of paperwork and documentation that their 401(k) plans deluge them with can be overwhelming, if not entirely intimidating, he says. Surveys state that about 80% of plan participants in the U.S. never rebalance their retirement portfolios, but this is mainly because the do-it-yourself model of the traditional 401(k) plan is simply too much for most individuals to handle, Ring says.

“We are all concerned about saving for retirement, but it doesn’t happen so easily,” he says.

Enter, then, what Ring likes to call “the next generation solution” to saving adequately for retirement: Brinker’s Retirement Plan Services program. Offered only through financial advisors, the program offers individuals the choice of six managed mutual fund portfolios from Brinker’s acclaimed Destinations program, a managed mutual fund account program for high-net-worth individuals, which has a 10-year track history of exceptional performance. Many advisors, Ring notes, have been clamoring for the kind of service Brinker’s plan offers.

In a nutshell, the only decision any individual has to make is what kind of portfolio they want, based on whether their tolerance for risk is high or low. Each model portfolio is made up of 18 underlying mutual funds from A-list companies such as Fidelity and T. Rowe Price, Ring says, and they range from highly risky to totally tame, depending upon the composition of the underlying funds.

Whereas traditional 401(k) plans require individuals to themselves sift through lists of available funds, the Brinker program only asks people to make one choice: That of a model portfolio. The choice made, individuals can sit back, comfortable in the knowledge that the portfolio they have chosen to go with is being actively and ably managed by a team of highly skilled and extremely competent professionals, and are subject to strict due diligence standards. Indeed, portfolios are actively rebalanced to maintain target allocations and managers are replaced if they no longer meet Brinker’s investment criteria.

“Our model takes participants directly to the end solution,” Ring says. “It is extremely simple for an individual to understand, yet each portfolio is designed in a highly complex manner and managed by top-level, skilled professionals.”

The product, which was launched on June 1, has been received very well thus far by a range of financial advisors and plan sponsors across the nation, Ring says, and already, Brinker has a sales pipeline of about $1.2 billion. Because Brinker is so well entrenched in the managed account business, it has a strong network of relationships with financial advisors, Ring says, and many are extremely keen to take on the retirement product.

That said, the product is not the glass slipper for the retirement savings industry, Ring warns. More than ever, individuals still need to be highly conscious of having a diverse range of savings vehicles, he says, and need to take some part in planning for their own futures. Many financial advisors, too, might not want to take on the product, because the retirement savings space is quite saturated with a range of services, and the Brinker approach is still novel for the industry.

However, the model aims to alleviate the burden felt by many an individual who is concerned about their future income situation, and assuage the fears the more paternalistic kinds of plan sponsors feel vis-? -vis their employees, Ring says, and the firm will continue to present it to more and more plan sponsors.

“Our model doesn’t fit every plan sponsor’s needs, but there is a significant base out there who think this is a good way to go,” he says.


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