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We publish industry and market related news regularly. Check back often to see what's new.

Benefit Insights: Automatic Enrollment is on the Rise and Protect Your 401(k)
May. 3, 2019

Automatic Enrollment is on the Rise

With the future of Social Security in question, it is becoming ever increasingly important for workers to self-prepare for post-retirement living. Studies show that approximately one out of every three eligible workers chose not to participate in their employer-sponsored 401(k) plan... 

Protect Your 401(k)

Though some employers may not think so, the truth is that in today’s world 401(k) Plans are subject to fraudulent activity, and that the often-overlooked retirement plan can be the perfect place for it to occur. For example, in late 2017, several news outlets reported a scheme targeting individual 401(k) accounts...  

Select the link to read more.

 

Quarterly Market Review - 2019 Q1: Déjà Vu All Over Again
Apr. 23, 2019

This report features world capital market performance and a timeline of events for the past quarter. It begins with a global overview, then features the returns of stock and bond asset classes in the US and international markets.

The report also illustrates the impact of globally diversified portfolios and features a quarterly topic.

Access this report to read more about these topics:

Market Summary

World Stock Market Performance

World Asset Classes 

US Stocks 

International Developed Stocks

Emerging Markets Stocks

Select Country Performance

Select Currency Performance vs. US Dollar

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Commodities

Fixed Income  

Global Fixed Income  

Impact of Diversification

Quarterly Topic: Déjà Vu All Over Again

 

 

Annual Market Review - 2018
Apr. 16, 2019

This report features world capital market performance for the past year.

 

Access this report to find out more about these topics:

Market Summary

World Asset Classes 

US Stocks 

International Developed Stocks

Emerging Markets Stocks

Select Country Performance

Select Currency Performance vs. US Dollar

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Commodities

Fixed Income

Impact of Diversification

 

ITR Economics: Insights from our CEO - Three Subtle Signs You Should Know
Apr. 12, 2019

"There is a reason ITR Economics uses rate-of-change to identify four distinct phases to the business cycle: Each phase requires a particular perspective in conjunction with a view to the future. The US economy is on the threshold of the third phase of the business cycle, Phase C. The "C" stands for "Caution," which is what we urge most folks to use when thinking about the next four quarters."

By Brian Beaulieu, CEO of ITR Economics

ITR Economics: Insights from our CEO - Some Argue the National Debt is No Issue
Mar. 21, 2019

"There are economists that maintain that the US need not worry about the growing size of our national debt.  Some of those economists argue that when the interest rate on government borrowing is below the growth rate of the economy, financing the debt should be sustainable. They go on to postulate that interest rates will probably stay low for quite some time because of demographics."

By Brian Beaulieu, CEO of ITR Economics

ITR Economics: Insights from our CEO - The Silver Lining of a Slowdown
Feb. 5, 2019

There are three reasons to see a silver lining in the cyclical slowdown of 2019:

  1. Interest rates in general will likely level off/decline
  2. The cost of carrying the national debt will abate in 2019
  3. Housing affordability will likely temporarily cease to be a growing problem

By Brian Beaulieu, CEO of ITR Economics

Benefit Insights: It's Testing Season!
Feb. 5, 2019

It's Testing Season!

Qualified plans must perform annual testing to be sure that the plan doesn’t unfairly discriminate in favor of "highly compensated employees" (HCEs) or exceed the contribution limits set forth by the IRS. Depending on your plan provisions, it isn’t just one calculation, but a series of tests that show that your plan is not discriminatory. If your plan is audited, the auditor is looking for proof of this compliance.  Select the link below to learn more...

Know Your Options 

If your plan offers a Roth 401(k) provision, your participants might ask, “Which one is better for me?” As the availability of Roth options in 401(k) plans and Roth contribution percentages continue to rise, it’s important to be able to guide participants in making the right choice.  Select the link below to learn more...

The 401(k) Turns 40

In 2018, the 401(k) plan celebrated its 40th birthday! Though extremely popular today, 401(k) plans came about almost by accident. IRC Section 401(k) was passed into law as part of the Revenue Act of 1978 and was included to limit executive compensation. However, in 1980, Ted Benna of the Johnson Companies used the provision to create and get IRS approval of the first 401(k) plan for his company. For this he is often referred to as the father of the 401(k). Select the link below to learn more...

ITR Economics: Insights from our CEO - Timing is Everything
Jan. 25, 2019

2019 Oil Prices and the Impact of Saudi Arabia and Russia

US Crude oil, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), cascaded $20 in November and into December. This morning, Dec. 18, the WTI price was $48.91. In response to the price decline, OPEC recently announced its intent to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day.

Quarterly Market Review - 2018 Q4: Why Should You Diversify?
Jan. 16, 2019

This report features world capital market performance and a timeline of events for the past quarter. It begins with a global overview, then features the returns of stock and bond asset classes in the US and international markets.

The report also illustrates the impact of globally diversified portfolios and features a quarterly topic.

 

Access this report to read more about these topics:

Market Summary

World Stock Market Performance

World Asset Classes 

US Stocks 

International Developed Stocks

Emerging Markets Stocks

Select Country Performance

Select Currency Performance vs. US Dollar

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Commodities

Fixed Income  

Global Fixed Income  

Impact of Diversification

Quarterly Topic: Why Should You Diversify?

ITR Economics: Insights from our CEO - When a Search Becomes a Leading Indicator
Jan. 4, 2019

There are three things to know when a search becomes a leading indicator...

We utilize all sorts of leading indicators. Some are traditional (e.g., the Purchasing Managers Index), some are international (G7 Leading Indicator), and some seem to stop working for us, at least for a while (Housing Starts), so we keep an eye on them. We discuss the leading indicators during our ITR Economics presentations at company sales meetings and trade association conventions.

By Brian Beaulieu, CEO of ITR Economics

Benefit Insights: Hardship Gets a Little Easier
Dec. 7, 2018

Hardships Get a Little Easier

Earlier this year, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 was passed by Congress and signed into law.  While this law made several changes that impact retirement plans, one provision changing the rules around hardship distributions is particularly notable.   Learn More - Access the link below.

Helping Hands

One of the most prevalent and difficult challenges for many twenty somethings these days is the repayment of their, often substantial, student loan debt. Statistics show that the average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree left school in 2016 with $28,446 in student loan debt.  Learn More - Access the link below.

Cost of Living Adjustments (TABLE)

Every Fall, the coming year’s Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) are released by the Internal Revenue Service. The benefit increases counteract the effects of inflation and keep up with the “cost of living”. Below are the limits for 2019.  Learn More - Access the link below.

'Tis the Season

It’s the time of year when Plan Sponsors scramble to deliver the myriad notices required to be given to their participants.  Even with the help of service providers, the sheer number of notices can be overwhelming.  Learn More - Access the link below.

Port in the Storm

Natural disasters can cause upheaval in many aspects of victims’ lives and this destruction often extends to financial matters. What should otherwise be routine compliance for plan deadlines can prove difficult in these extreme events and the government tends to grant temporary relief in such cases.  Learn More - Access the link below.

Quarterly Market Review - 2018 Q3: Total Cost of Fund Ownership
Oct. 15, 2018

This report features world capital market performance and a timeline of events for the past quarter. It begins with a global overview, then features the returns of stock and bond asset classes in the US and international markets.

The report also illustrates the impact of globally diversified portfolios and features a quarterly topic.

 

Access this report to ready more on these topics:

Market Summary

World Stock Market Performance

World Asset Classes 

US Stocks 

International Developed Stocks

Emerging Markets Stocks

Select Country Performance

Select Currency Performance vs. US Dollar

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Commodities

Fixed Income  

Impact of Diversification

Quarterly Topic: Total Cost of Fund Ownership

 

The Retirement Income Gap and Helpful Hints for Plan Sponsors
Oct. 6, 2018

The Retirement Income Gap

Many American workers participate in company retirement plans, methodically contributing to their accounts over time to fund for life after work. Beyond benefiting from employer-funded plans, retirees commonly draw from additional savings tucked away in IRAs or after-tax savings accounts as well. Add Social Security payments to the mix and it should be a recipe for a secure retirement, right?  

Read more by selecting the pdf below...

Helpful Hints for Plan Sponsors

Being a plan sponsor comes with a good bit of responsibility. You’ve taken the important step of hiring a third-party administration firm to help you navigate the myriad of processes that are required to keep your plan in compliance with applicable regulations. Below are a few helpful hints to keep your plan in compliance, avoid unnecessary corrections, and help to better serve your participants. 

Read more by selecting the pdf below...

ITR Economics: Insights from the ITR Economics CEO – Tariffs More than a Tiff
Sep. 20, 2018

We think there are four variables presently at work that are inhibiting stock market rise and one variable that typically means the market has gone as high as it can for the current cycle. The five mitigating variables are...

ITR Economics: Insights from the ITR Economics CEO – 10 Reasons There is No Russian Equivalency
Jul. 25, 2018

Militarily speaking, Russia is a powerful country; some might say even on par with the US. We are economists, however, not politicians. Accordingly, we think in metrics and mathematical terms. Economically speaking, there is no equivalency between the US and Russia.

Quarterly Market Review - 2018 Q2: E+R=O, a Formula for Success
Jul. 15, 2018

This report features world capital market performance and a timeline of events for the past quarter. It begins with a global overview, then features the returns of stock and bond asset classes in the US and international markets.

The report also illustrates the impact of globally diversified portfolios and features a quarterly topic.

 

Access this report to read more on these topics:

Market Summary

World Stock Market Performance

World Asset Classes 

US Stocks 

International Developed Stocks

Emerging Markets Stocks

Select Country Performance

Select Currency Performance vs. US Dollar

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Commodities

Fixed Income  

Impact of Diversification

Quarterly Topic: E+R=O, a Formula for Success

 

ITR Economics: Insights from ITR Economics CEO - Five Inhibitors Between You and Capital Appreciation in Equities
Jun. 22, 2018

We think there are four variables presently at work that are inhibiting stock market rise and one variable that typically means the market has gone as high as it can for the current cycle. The five mitigating variables are:

  1. Individual investors have gone heavily into this market; which tends to mean it is overbought.
  2. The Cyclically Adjusted Price Earnings (CAPE) ratio is sufficiently high to suggest less-than-inflation rates of return ahead on average for the next five years.
  3. Corporate profitability is going to need a significant lift from the tax changes to return the S&P 500 to a rising trend, and such a lift is not a slam dunk.
  4. The specter of a trade war is creating uncertainty.
  5. This is a mid-term election year.


 

ITR Economics: Insights from our CEO - Four Reasons Why Secular Stagnation Does Not Describe the US
May. 25, 2018

“Secular stagnation” is meant to describe a market-based economy that experiences slow growth or no growth. Secular is used to imply a long-term condition as opposed to the cyclical variety with which we usually deal.

Benefit Insights: Who is an Employee and HSA vs 401(k)
May. 3, 2018

Who is an Employee?

Maintaining a retirement plan for your employees is no easy task. At various points during the year, employers and HR departments field participant questions, help with enrollments, deliver notices and statements, and participate in the distribution process. However, an additional responsibility, and one of the most important, is the collection of data that is used for compliance testing and government reporting. Learn more by selecting the Newsletter attachment below...

HSA vs 401(k)

If your company has decided to offer a high deductible health plan, don't worry, you are not alone. Recent studies show that an increasing number of employers have elected to offer high deductible health plans (HDHP) either to completely replace or be offered in conjunction with a more traditional Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan or Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan. Learn more by selecting the Newsletter attachment below...

 

Quarterly Market Review - 2018 Q1: Sailing with the Tides
Apr. 15, 2018

This report features world capital market performance and a timeline of events for the past quarter. It begins with a global overview, then features the returns of stock and bond asset classes in the US and international markets.

The report also illustrates the impact of globally diversified portfolios and features a quarterly topic.

 

Access the report to find out more on these topics:

Market Summary

World Stock Market Performance

World Asset Classes 

US Stocks 

International Developed Stocks

Emerging Markets Stocks

Select Country Performance

Select Currency Performance vs. US Dollar

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Commodities

Fixed Income  

Impact of Diversification

Quarterly Topic: Sailing with the Tides

 

ITR Economics: Insights from ITR Economics CEO - Follow the Money
Apr. 12, 2018

" Follow the money” is very good advice at this stage of the business cycle and the trend through April 24 was not encouraging.

ITR Economics: Insights from ITR Economics CEO, Brian Beaulieu – Moonwalking Tariffs
Mar. 30, 2018

"The Trump Administration decided to exempt the European Union, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Australia from the steel and aluminum tariffs that went into effect on March 23. Below is a list of the top 11 sources of imported steel into the US."

ITR Economics: Insights from ITR Economics CEO, Brian Beaulieu – Three Steps to Prepare for 2019 Business Cycle Decline
Feb. 28, 2018

"We are at that point in the business cycle when the leading indicator signals become “mixed.” Our leading indicator methodology is set up to account for this. We wait until two, then five, and ultimately 10 indicators have flipped from rise to decline, as is the case for 2017-2018."

Benefit Insights: Navigating Distributions
Feb. 14, 2018

The first quarter of the calendar year typically sees an uptick in the number of retirement plan distributions and participant loans. This year may be even busier than most, given the relief announced by the IRS for victims of the recent hurricanes and wildfires. Whatever the reason, participant distributions present a complex set of rules for Plan Sponsors to navigate. Under current law, a participant is entitled to a distribution from their account upon the occurrence of certain events or, as they are technically known, distributable events. 

ITR Economics: Insights from ITR Economics CEO, Brian Beaulieu – The 0.5% Tax Nudge
Jan. 26, 2018

There seems to be a broad assumption that the tax law changes are going to dump a lot of fresh, free cash into the economy. We are hopeful that it will move the economic needle, but we urge caution because more data is needed. 

ITR Economics: Insights from ITR Economics CEO, Brian Beaulieu
Dec. 20, 2017

We are heading into 2018 with the economy in good shape in most segments. Industrial, service, and retail data point toward a strong first half of 2018. We expect slowing growth in the second half of the year. That outlook is unchanged. Read more to see other predictions…

Benefit Insights: End of the Year Checklist
Dec. 13, 2017

As the year-end approaches, our to-do lists can be lengthy. There are holidays to prepare for, employee performance reviews to complete, and, oh, wait, there is also the year-end data collection package from your TPA! We have once again reached that magical time of the year when you get to submit information regarding your retirement plan so your compliance services can be completed. While your TPA firm does the heavy lifting, the information you submit is the basis for accurate compliance testing. While not very exciting, this information is important. So, what should you know about the year-end tasks?

ITR Economics: Insights from ITR Economics CEO, Brian Beaulieu
Nov. 22, 2017

There is an overriding concern for the US economy and the labor shortage. However, every recent college graduate may ask “what shortage? I am right here?”

ITR Economics: Insights from ITR Economics CEO, Brian Beaulieu
Nov. 18, 2017

Know where you are in the business cycle and take the risks associated with doing everything you can to keep the good times rolling beyond 2018.

ITR Economics: Business Cycle is Rising Now
Nov. 17, 2017

Read more about the economic business insights from ITR Economics CEO, Brian Beaulieu!

Benefit Insights: Fiduciary - The New "F" Word
Sep. 18, 2017

There has been a large amount of upheaval in the retirement world as of late and it centers around the “F”
word. And by “f” word, I mean “fiduciary.” The New Fiduciary Rule means that many professionals in the finance world that weren’t previously considered fiduciaries will now have to take on that title. In April 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) laid out its plan to implement the “New Fiduciary Rule” or
“Best Interest Rule.” However, after several delays, further phases of the rule have been pushed out to July 2019. Read more to understand what the plan sponsors need to know.

ITR Economics: Economic Outlook on the US Dollar
Aug. 18, 2017

Senior Analyst of ITR Economics, Alex Chausovsky, is frequently asked about the outlook for the US dollar. The dollar which has strengthened significantly over the last several years, should remain relatively strong versus foreign currencies in the near term.

ITR Economics: Consumer Power!
Jul. 25, 2017

Consumption accounts for approximately 67% of Gross Domestic Product in the U.S.

Our ability to consume goods and services provides key insight into what the economy will look like in the months ahead. Consumer trends have turned more positive in the latest month and look good for increased activity through at least the next two quarters.

ITR Economics: Mitigating Risk
Jun. 30, 2017

Mitigating risk. Sometimes that what it is all about. There is risk in any decision. There is risk in not making a decision. 

Benefit Insights: Retirement Plan Rx
Jun. 30, 2017

The latest news regarding retirement plans has centered around service provider fees. While fees are a highly important aspect of managing an employer-sponsored retirement plan, they are not the only metric of your overall retirement plan's health. A low-cost retirement plan does not necessarily parallel a fruitful pension program for employees. Studies show that since Social Security was never designed to fully fund an individual's retirement, employer-sponsored retirement plans have become an integral part of employee's overall financial plan for their future. Relying so heavily on this one component should prompt any plan sponsor to ask one very straightforward question... How healthy is my company's retirement program?

ITR Economics: Perspective
May. 19, 2017

It is easy to get caught up in the moment and lose some perspective when the stock market drops.

Read Brian Beaulieu’s, CEO of IT Economics, perspective on the “hype” when then stock market drops.

ITR Economics: The Challenge of Success
Apr. 19, 2017

Legacy companies will face increasing difficulty in choosing to invest in the future while paying dividends or advancing bureaucratic infrastructure because these are competing, cash-consuming aspects of the business.

If legacy companies attempt to have it both ways, they run the risk of ending up like Sears, JC Penny, Digital Equipment Company, Circuit City, Compaq, Macy’s, Eastern Airlines, Nordstrom, and, perhaps someday, Walmart.

What both today’s big names and smaller companies (which are most of us) need is disruptive change...

Benefit Insights: Benefit Communications in an Electronic World
Apr. 5, 2017

With electronic communications becoming the standard in business industries worldwide, Plan sponsors are becoming increasingly interested in abandoning paper processes for a more electronic means of communication with plan participants and beneficiaries. This option has many advantages, however, raises a few important questions for today’s plan sponsors such as which documents do regulations allow to be e-delivered, and do I need the participants consent, etc.?

This newsletter will focus on the common participant communications acceptable via electronic delivery and their requirements.

 

 

Benefit Insights: Dealing with Uncashed Distribution Checks and Missing Participants
Apr. 5, 2017

The Department of Labor (DOL) has estimated that there is $15 million in retirement plan distribution checks that go unclaimed because plan participants, or their beneficiaries have failed to cash distribution checks. This has now become an issue for retirement plans as uncashed checks become plan assets. As the plan sponsor, this is a fiduciary duty and failure to take the appropriate steps to locate the participants, can be considered a breach of duty.

This newsletter will focus on the requirements of what the plan sponsor should do and how to search for missing participants, as well as what the options are if the participant cannot be found.

ITR Economics: The New Administration and the Economy
Mar. 28, 2017

Since the Trump Administration has recently released the initial budget proposal, the document is not nearly complete. And, it is too soon to know what will happen.

Read the full article and see what the experts have to say…

ITR Economics: Managing Your Labor Costs – A Winning Strategy
Feb. 23, 2017

Use technology and innovative processes to manage your labor costs.

Read the full article and see what the experts have to say…

ITR Economics: A Good Year Ahead!
Jan. 23, 2017

The economy is gearing up for a better 2017 and we hope you are too! Leading indicators are all going up.

Read the full article and see what the experts have to say…

ITR Economics: Positive Economic Signals for 2017
Dec. 27, 2016

The stock market has been reporting record highs recently. This positive trend is a valid economic signal leading into 2017.  ITR has their reasons why the stock market is likely to continue.

Read the full article and see what the experts have to say…

ITR Economics: Did the Recent Election have Impact on the Economic Outlook?
Dec. 27, 2016

Mr. Trump’s election recently as the next President certainly caught many of Americans by surprise. However, it really does not change the ITR Economics outlook for 2017. ITR Economics has been forecasting general economic rise in the US economy and the Global economy and the rise is still likely.

Read the full article and see what the experts have to say…

ITR Economics: Guarded Optimism for the Economy
Dec. 27, 2016

The last few months of data show a rebound and a better-than normal increase, however, we are not clearly out of the woods yet.

Read the full article and see what the experts have to say…

ITR Economics: The Post-Brexit Economy--Where Are We Now?
Dec. 27, 2016

It has been months since the Brexit vote and the wheels have not come off the economic cart for Europe or the United Kingdom. The first batch of leading indicator data has been released and the hopes for better days, months, and quarters are ahead.

Read the full article and see what the experts have to say…

Benefit Insights: Rules and Taxation of 401(k) Plan Distributions
Dec. 22, 2016

A 401(k) plan permits employees to defer a portion of their salaries on a pre-tax basis with the objective of accumulating assets for retirement. Additional assets are accumulated if the employer makes contributions to the participant’s account.

With today’s mobile workforce, many distributions are made before retirement because employees usually become eligible to receive distributions when they terminate employment. Distributions also become payable due to disability, death or a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). In addition, many 401(k) plans permit hardship withdrawals. Sometimes active participants are forced to take minimum distributions after reaching age 70½.

This newsletter will examine the rules and tax consequences associated with the various types of distributions from a 401(k) plan.

ITR Economics: Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Good or Bad for the United States?
Nov. 17, 2016

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement makes a convenient lightening rod for folks concerned about losing American jobs through global competition and those concerned about large corporations manipulating politics and the economy to their own selfish advantage within a world view that globalization and large corporations are inherently bad and that economics is a zero-sum game. 

Read the full article and see what the experts have to say…

Benefit Insights: DOL Issues New Fiduciary Rule
Sep. 13, 2016

On April 8, 2016 the Department of Labor (DOL) issued final guidance that greatly expands the types of retirement investment advice that will be subject to the fiduciary duty rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The so-called “conflict of interest” rule for retirement investments will have a significant effect on those who provide investment advice and sell investment products and services to retirement plans and IRAs. The central focus of the DOL guidance is to protect plan participants from conflicts of interest that could threaten their retirement savings.

Benefit Insights: Fun with Forfeitures
Jun. 28, 2016

Sooner or later, almost all 401(k) plans will face the “fun” of dealing with forfeitures. Just like every other plan-related operational item, there are specific rules that provide guidance on the “who, what, why, when and where” of using forfeitures.

Benefit Insights: Part-Time Employees in 401(k) Plans
Feb. 23, 2016

More and more businesses are hiring part-time, seasonal or temporary employees (collectively referred to in this newsletter as “part-ti me employees”). Employers believe the advantages to using this alternative workforce include lower wages and significant savings in terms of not providing employee benefits to these individuals.

Benefit Insights: Determining Retirement Plan Compensation
Dec. 1, 2015

When it comes to operating your retirement plan, determining the compensation that should be used for each participant can be really confusing. It seems like it should be simple, but the reality is quite different. In fact, the rules can be so confusing that using an incorrect definition of compensation is on the top ten list of mistakes the IRS sees in voluntary correction filings. Since compensation is used not only to calculate contributions but also to apply limits, conduct nondiscrimination testing and determine tax deductions, the IRS is especially concerned that it be correct. While an exhaustive discussion of all the rules and exceptions would take up far more space than we have here, this article will cover some of the more common points of confusion.