Well folks – we have less than 60 days to comment on “Proposed Information Collection Request Submitted for Public Comment; Survey Regarding Pension Benefit Statements.”
The Department of Labor (the Department) “is planning to survey participants in an existing household Internet panel called the American Life Panel (ALP) and conduct four focus groups consisting of non-panel members to explore whether information presented in retirement plan benefit statements can be presented in a manner that is understandable for participants and beneficiaries and makes them better prepared for retirement. Topics probed in the survey include participants’ current allocations to their retirement accounts, their expectations for how long they will need to keep working, their financial goals for retirement, the basis for calculating those goals, how frequently they view their current benefits statement, whether they receive benefit statements in paper or electronic format, and what information from the statements do they primarily focus on. Survey participants will then be provided with two different benefits statements that provide slightly different information and will be asked to answer several questions based on those statements to better assess what they understand about the statements.
The study results will be used to support the Department’s rulemaking pursuant to section 105(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 as amended by the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which requires administrators of ERISA-covered individual account plans to furnish periodic benefit statements to participants and beneficiaries and the Department to develop model benefits statements.“
Inquiring minds wonder who will be designing the “two different benefits statements” that survey participants will review and how the questions will be framed. Having conducted a significant amount of research in the retirement market and reviewed research conducted by others I can say that this approach may be a recipe for disaster. The retirement industry has just invested a great deal in updating all of their statements to reflect DOL mandated fee disclosures and now they may be faced with another mandated redesign.