Ins and Outs of Fiduciary Outsourcing for Credit Unions

By: Richard W. Rausser, Senior Vice President of Client Services, Pentegra Retirement Services

With retirement plans seemingly becoming ever more complicated, outsourcing of fiduciary investment responsibilities has steadily become more commonplace. This is especially true in the case of the C-Suite at credit unions, which can find outsourcing very appealing.

Not only is the passing along of fiduciary responsibilities one less burden for credit union managers, allowing them to focus on day-to-day business and obviating the need for them to become qualified plan experts, but the practice can also serve to insulate them and their credit union from a number of risks.

Benefits of Outsourcing

Outsourcing to a sanctioned third-party fiduciary guarantees that a given plan’s documentation is up to date, complies with all laws and regulations, and delivers appropriate disclosures to plan participants and sponsors.

If a plan is large enough (meaning it has roughly 100 to 120 participants) it requires an independent auditor – the selection of which again can be provided by the external fiduciary, saving the credit union time and money. (It should be noted that investment fiduciary outsourcing can be appropriate for defined benefit and defined contribution plans of all sizes.)

In addition, the day-to-day management of a plan involves, among other things, making sure the plan is running as it should be; nuts and bolts record-keeping; and administrative decisions about such issues as a plan participant’s request for a loan or a hardship distribution.

Customizing Responsibilities

Arranging the responsibilities of a third-party fiduciary should be fairly easy to customize; one can outsource all of the above or cherry-pick whichever duties one wishes on an ala carte basis.

A credit union needs to provide a reputable third-party fiduciary with the following:

  • Data on the plan participants;
  • The money involved with the plan; and
  • A commitment to regularly review the plan’s performance (usually once a year).

In that way, any questions or concerns can be addressed efficiently. (Of course, any issues that rise before the review date can also be discussed at any time.)

Fiduciary Responsibility

If there are record-keeping errors made by the outside fiduciary, it is that fiduciary’s responsibility to make amends, including making up any monetary shortfall. In the unlikely case of a participant-filed lawsuit, the outside fiduciary is again front and center, providing the defense in the case and making good on any claims or settlements.

The credit union’s board and senior management are insulated from responsibility; even though the plan ultimately belongs to the credit union, it is the named fiduciary who holds the liability in such instances.

Such an arrangement can also be of value in the case of multiple employer plans (MEPs), an employee benefit plan that can be maintained as a single plan in which two or more unrelated employers participate. As each credit union has its own separate boards of directors, the advantages of having an independent fiduciary to manage and administrate the plan are readily apparent.

Credit Union Responsibilities

All of that said, there will remain some fiduciary responsibilities and liabilities for the fiduciary responsible for selecting and contracting with the outsourced fiduciary. Breach of contract is the most obvious of these, but there is also the matter of monitoring/reviewing with the outside fiduciary that I mentioned previously.

In addition – and this should go without saying – it is incumbent upon the relevant credit union executive to read all communiques from the third-party fiduciary, and to ask and follow through on any questions or concerns.

None of these duties should be particularly onerous, especially if you have chosen a reputable external fiduciary. When considering such a company – as you should with all outside vendors – “test drive the car”: Find out all you can about several different ones, ask lots of questions, and make as informed a final decision as possible.

Learn more from Rich by watching the recorded webinar: “Innovative Retirement Plan Design for Maximum Results.”

About Rich Rausser:
Richard W. Rausser has over 25 years of experience in the retirement benefits field. He is Senior Vice President of Client Services at Pentegra Retirement Services, a leading provider of retirement planning services to financial institutions and organizations nationwide, founded by the Federal Home Loan Bank System in 1943. Rich oversees Pentegra’s consulting, marketing and communications and actuarial service groups at Pentegra. He is a frequent speaker on retirement benefit topics; a Certified Pension Consultant (CPC); a Qualified Pension Administrator (QPA); a Qualified 401(k) Administrator (QKA); and a member of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA).

Pentegra_Logo_FinalPentegra is the NAFCU Preferred Partner for Qualified Retirement Plans for Credit Union Employees

Decumulation: There Is No Rule of Thumb

By Rich Rausser, CPC, QPA, QKA,   Senior Vice President, Pentegra Retirement Services

In most pursuits, people usually look for a “rule of thumb” when it comes to sound strategies or best practices. However, when it comes to developing a retirement plan strategy the rule of thumb is that there is no rule of thumb.

The reason for this may be obvious. As individuals, we all have our own needs, wants and concerns; many of us may be the same age, live in the same geographical area, and even make the same exact salary. Even if two people were hired on the same day by the same firm at the same salary, and made equal contributions to their 401(k) plans throughout their careers, there are still a number of variables to prevent them from taking a “one size fits all” approach to decumulation.

Are both persons married? Are their spouses/partners both working and, if so, what are their salaries and retirement savings? Do they have any children? Where are they in terms of college expenses and healthcare needs?

Unrealistic Rules

I note this because there has been some discussion of late over an industry-wide “rule of thumb” that suggests retirees should try to replace 80 percent of their income during the first year of retirement. While that may be an admirable goal, it may not be realistic for many retirees for the reasons listed above as well as others.

Another specious rule of thumb is that retirees will simply take their 401(k) savings as a lump sum distribution when they retire. While lump sum distributions are certainly a viable option, many plan participants may not even be aware that other options exist and may benefit from further education about alternative distribution options.

Alternative Distribution Options

Many 401(k) plans have numerous distribution options, thus offering a tremendous amount of flexibility in how retirees can take their money. These can include what we call an “ad hoc distribution” – whereby the retiree takes out some money whenever he or she wants; a regular, periodic distribution — $2,000 per month, for instance, or $6,000 per quarter; or structuring payouts over the retiree’s life expectancy.

There is another option that I have mentioned before: supplementing one’s retirement income by purchasing an out-of-plan annuity that can provide a guaranteed level of income to retirees for as long as they live. If a retiree puts 20 to 25 percent of their retirement savings into an annuity, with Social Security providing supplemental income and the rest of the retiree’s account balance consisting of various other pieces, the retiree is in effect “pensionizing” part of their retirement savings.

The annuity option should be available to every 401(k) plan participant, regardless of individual circumstances; it should be viewed as another tool in their retirement savings tool box.

Retirement plans should be constructed in a way that provides the best possible solutions to its plan participants in a cost-effective manner.

For additional information, watch the recent webinar, “Keys to Building Successful Retirement Outcomes.”  Or, download The Pentegra Distribution Path™  for an overview of all the options available to employees and essential tips for creating a decumulation strategy to build a lifetime income stream.

Pentegra_LogoPentegra is the NAFCU Services Preferred partner for Qualified Retirement Plans for Credit Union Employees. More educational resources and contact information are available at

10 Steps to Better Retirement Planning for the New Year


Rich RRich Rausserausser is a Certified Pension Consultant (CPC), a Qualified Pension Administrator (QPA), a Qualified 401(k) Administrator (QKA), and a member of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA). He holds an M.B.A. in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a B.A. in Economics and Business Administration from Ursinus College. 

Pentegra Retirement Services is the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for Qualified Retirement Plans for Credit Union Employees.

The start of every New Year brings the promise of new beginnings; a time to think about setting goals and resolving to do new things, particularly when it comes to finances.

It is important to take a few minutes this month to think about the state of your retirement portfolio and to commit to an annual self-assessment.  This should be more than ‘I will spend less’ in 2015. One of your resolutions should be to find better ways to manage your finances and invest your money.

I encourage everyone to jump-start their efforts with this checklist:

1. Increase Plan Contributions:  Are you contributing as much as you can afford to your retirement plan? The more money you put into your plan now, the bigger your potential retirement nest egg. Adding as little as five or ten extra dollars per paycheck could make a big difference over the long term.

2. Make Catch-up Contributions: Your plan may allow you to make “catch-up” contributions over and above the regular contribution limit if you are age 50 or older. If possible, take advantage of the opportunity to give your retirement savings a boost.

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Retirement Savings Incentives Listed Among Possible Tax Reform Options

Originally posted on

Guest post written by Dennis Zuehlke, Compliance Manager, Ascensus.

Ascensus is the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for IRA, Retirement Plan, and Health Savings Account (HSA) Solutions Software, Training, Documents and Consulting.

The Senate Finance Committee has released its Economic Security tax reform option paper  containing a laundry list of retirement savings incentives among the possible tax reform options. The non-exhaustive list is just the latest indication that retirement savings incentives will be scrutinized as part of efforts to reform the tax code, in part because their cost to the Treasury is second only to the cost of the exclusion of employer contributions for healthcare.

Earlier this year, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orin Hatch (R-UT) laid out a series of discussion topics to set the stage for comprehensive tax reform. Over the past several months, the Finance Committee has been meeting weekly to discuss the tax reform option papers drafted by the majority and minority committee staffs to determine which options they may want to consider as part of comprehensive tax reform.

The option papers have covered a wide array of issues from across the tax code, including simplifying the tax system for families and businesses; business investment and innovation; infrastructure, energy, and natural resources; international competitiveness; and economic and community development. The Economic Security paper is the seventh in a series of papers and focuses on health, retirement, life insurance, fringe benefits, and executive compensation.

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IRA Withholding Notice and Election Requirements

Originally published in The Federal Credit Union Magazine.

Guest blog post by Jennifer Basset, writer/editor at Ascensus.

Ascensus is the NAFCU Services Preferred Partner for IRA, Retirement Plan, and Health Savings Account (HSA) Solutions Software, Training, Documents and Consulting.

With many of your members getting ready to take out their 2013 required minimum distributions (RMDs), now is the perfect time to brush up on the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) withholding notice and election requirements for credit unions.

Withholding is an important compliance issue for IRAs. Like withholding from a paycheck, IRA distribution withholding prepays income taxes. Taxes withheld from IRA distributions are credited against an individual’s total tax liability for the year. So not only is withholding required by law, it’s a valuable customer service that you provide your members.

Notice Requirement

For annual IRA distributions of $200 or more, your credit union must provide a withholding notice. This notice allows the member (i.e., the IRA owner or beneficiary) to choose exactly how much or what percentage they want withheld— including not having any withholding at all. Even if members choose not to withhold taxes from their distributions, they are still responsible for paying taxes on the distribution. The notice also lets them know they have the right to change their mind about how much they want withheld. If your credit union fails to give members a withholding notice, the IRS could assess a $10 penalty for each failure.

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