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Retirement Plan Expert Hails Auto IRA Designations

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The government should keep worker savings from flowing completely out of retirement plans by using the power of inertia to ease individual retirement account rollovers.

Joan Gucciardi, a representative from the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries, Arlington, Va., offered that suggestion and others Wednesday in Washington, at a meeting of a U.S. Department of Labor ERISA Advisory Council working group.

Gucciardi, who is an actuary at Summit Benefit & Actuarial Services Inc., Eugene, Ore., suggested that Congress build on existing automatic retirement plan enrollment and automatic contribution increase mechanisms by creating an automatic individual retirement account designation mechanism.

New plan members would authorize an employer to roll the members’ assets into designated IRAs if the members left the employer or became eligible to withdraw plan assets for some other reason, Gucciardi said, according to a written version of her remarks distributed by ASPPA.

Plan members could change the designation or decide to withdraw the plan assets, anyway, but, in many cases, the IRA designation mechanism could keep workers from simply withdrawing and spending the cash, Gucciardi said.

“It would also promote participants’ consolidating their retirement assets in fewer accounts, which would make it easier for participants to manage and monitor their retirement assets,” Gucciardi said.

Gucciardi also proposed:

- Encouraging plans to let exiting workers take some assets in the form of lump sums and some in the form of benefit payment streams, rather than requiring workers to choose between taking all of the cash at once or collecting all of the assets in the form of payment streams.

- Letting workers with less than $50,000 in retirement plan assets wait as long as they want to begin taking the money out, rather than requiring them to start taking money out when they reach age 70.5.

- Letting workers use plan assets to buy deferred income annuities.

- Letting plan members use plan assets to buy long term care insurance.