Three Things You Need to Know When Hiring a 401(k) Adviser

401-k-advisor-image“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” – Alexander the Great

As a Human Resources Professional, C-level executive, or team leader, you depend on those around you to give their best, as you give your best to them. At the start of this new year, maybe it is time to ask yourself if you are demanding that same level of quality from the professionals you hire outside your company walls. That highest level of professionalism is especially important when hiring an adviser to manage your company’s 401(k) plan. With increased scrutiny on fiduciary responsibility and the roles that each professional plays in the management of the plan, here are three things to consider when hiring or evaluating your 401(k) adviser.

  1. Is your adviser focused on 401(k)s?

“Jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind when thinking of a financial adviser who does not focus on one specific area of expertise. While there is nothing to say that an adviser cannot be good at multiple financial disciplines, when it comes to managing 401(k) plans it is imperative that your adviser know enough to stay on top of changing regulations and best practices. Aside from the fiduciary focus, there is also renewed attention on target dates and how they are selected and monitored. Your adviser should understand these rules and be able to document how your plan is addressing them. Additionally, review your adviser’s qualifications and designations looking for industry designations that specifically address their fiduciary knowledge.

  1. Is your adviser on a team or a sole practitioner?

There is not a right or wrong answer to this question, rather something to consider as a best fit for your plan. I work on a team and cannot imagine trying to go it alone and properly manage all of the responsibilities to the plan, the plan committee, and the participants. On my team, I focus on the analytical, detailed, “left-brain” tasks and my partner focuses on educating the plan participants and keeping the message relatable. Additionally, we have found that when working with committees there are times when my style and personality work well with some committee members and times where his is a better fit.

  1. How is your adviser compensated?

This is especially important to know ahead of the April 1, 2017, start date of the new fiduciary rules. It will be more difficult for your adviser to be compensated if he or she is receiving commissions from the investments in the plan. A commission is a fixed amount paid out to an adviser from an investment that is included in the cost of the investment and does not have to be paid separately or approved by the plan sponsor. The other way an adviser is compensated is to charge a fee to the plan. This fee can be in the form of an asset based charge, usually represented as a percentage, or as a flat fee. Typically, the fee is fully disclosed, is not paid by the investments, and can either be paid by the plan sponsor or passed on to participant accounts.

If you are unsure of the answers to any of the questions above, please reach out to me at or 205.970.9088 and I’ll be happy to get you some answers!

The Best Gift You Can Give to Your Company


It’s official…the holiday shopping spree is in full swing. Hopefully, you made it through Black Friday with all of your limbs and hair and through Cyber Monday with enough money left in your account to pay this month’s bills! All the holiday shopping made me stop and think, “What is the best gift that you can give someone?” Respect, time, money all came to mind. With those things in mind, over the next three weeks I want to look at ways to use your benefit plan, specifically the 401(k) or Profit Sharing Plan, to help give those gifts to your company, your employees, and yourself.

Whether you are a C-suite level executive assessing where to best spend your company’s resources or a Human Resource Professional thinking about how to make the most of your resources to benefit the company, one thing is certain – ultimately the company you own, manage, or work for needs to thrive. I would argue that one of the best ways to ensure the growing or continued success of the company is to hire the most talented workers and to retain them by showing that you respect them and want to contribute to the success of their retirement futures.

The gift of time that offering a 401(k) plan can offer to your company comes by adding valuable time worked to the workforce. To explain, I believe there is a significant difference between an employee that has to work and one that wants to work. If, through your retirement benefit plan, you can add hours to the employees that want to work by reducing the hours of have-to-works by allowing those employees to retire on time, then I believe that you are giving a great gift to the company as a whole.

Offering a 401(k) plan can also help reduce corporate taxes, thus helping the company to save money. The most common way to reduce your company’s tax liability is through offering a match or profit sharing arrangement. With either a match or profit sharing agreement, the amount the company contributes is tax deductible. Another lesser known way to reduce your business taxes is to pay for the expenses related to the plan such as the cost of the third-party administrator, recordkeeper, and/or financial advisor. Most commonly these fees are automatically deducted from participant accounts, but recordkeepers are becoming more flexible with the ways fees are collected.

These gifts of respect, time, and money can be given to your company with a well designed 401(k) plan. If you do not think these goals are being achieved by your current plan, please call me at 205.970.9088 or email me at and I will get to work for you today on developing a plan that works for you and your company.

Three Ways to Make Employees More Productive With Your Retirement Plan – {Anatomy of a Happy Office}

shutterstock_249108538 copyA quality retirement plan is a carrot that encourages loyalty and productivity. We talk about plans that “recruit, reward and retain” employees, but you should also consider the importance of helping an employee “retire.” The trend of baby boomers planning to stay employed to a latter age is well-documented. Although this can be beneficial, it can also mean increased costs for your company:

  •  Wages are likely on the high side of the scale for comparable positions
  •  New talent is not being developed, or is leaving for greener pastures

If you can offer an effective exit plan for the baby boomer, you help your employee and your company.  The seasoned employee is motivated to be productive, but also sees a light at the end of the employment tunnel.

A competitive retirement plan motivates younger employees as well. They see an opportunity to grow wealth within the company rather than seeking their fortune elsewhere. The golden handcuff of a long-term savings plan may give them a reason to avoid the salary chase.

An effective approach

This is an excellent environment to review and update your business’s retirement plan. While many business planning considerations may be on hold due to capital restrictions, productivity of the current workforce is paramount.  And retirement is on workers’ minds … young and old.

Cost should not be the controlling factor in reviewing the company’s plan. Effectiveness should be the target.   Keep these keys to effectiveness in mind and you’ll have a happier, more productive workforce:

1. Make it about them:  I’ve seen some retirement plan communications that read more like playbooks than explanations. While it is important that employees understand the “how” of the plan, you first have to sell the “why.”  Think of it this way: you invest dollars to set up a retirement plan, but a few cents spent in effectively communicating the plan can significantly enhance the return on your investment.

2. Offer options:   Automatic enrollment, pre-tax and post-tax features, expanded investment options – all of these give the employee an enhanced feeling of control. In an environment where so much of their retirement capital is associated with your company plan, peace of mind comes with giving the employees an enhanced say in how their money is handled.

3. Promote the hidden paycheck:  Now that you have the employee’s attention, use the company retirement plan to promote the other benefits of employment with your company.  With communication about the retirement plan, you can also change the conversation from “wages” to “pay plus.”  You can promote the company’s contribution to Social Security, the medical plan, flex time and other benefits that enhance the employee’s life.

In decades past, workers built retirement savings by paying down the mortgage balance on their home, putting money in savings bonds and building up cash values in their life insurance policies. Although it can be argued that these approaches are admirable, the reality is that not as many Americans are doing this. Instead, a sizeable chunk of a family’s retirement savings sits in their qualified plan at work. 401(k) features, such as automatic enrollment and employer match, make it increasingly easier to build up a retirement nest egg. For higher paid employees, nonqualified plans have become a key savings source, especially in a rising tax environment. The bottom line is employees are far more attentive to what retirement plans are offered through their employers.  When an employee feels like their employer has his or her best interest at heart, they are far more likely to work harder and perform better.   Add in the value of the employee not feeling as stressed about whether they will or will not be able to ever retire, the employees’ morale boost again increases work productivity which helps you the employer while benefitting your employees.

-Jamie Kertis, AIF®, QKA / Retirement Plan Specialist

*excerpts of article from article by Steve Parrish – “Why You Should Care About Your Employees’ Retirement Plans”

anatomy-smallAll through November, all of the advisors at our office are doing a series of articles, tips and tools and geared toward the “Anatomy of a Happy Office”.  Follow all of our blogs to read it all.
Northside of Average by Valerie Leonard
Motivated Monday by Caleb Bagwell
TAG-Living Loud by Trent Grinkmeyer


Jamie Kertis, AIF®, QKAjamie kertis headshot
Retirement Plan Specialist
Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial
1950 Stonegate Drive / Suite 275 /Birmingham, AL 35242
Office: 205.970.9088 / Toll-Free: 866.695.5162

Contact Jamie

Follow Jamie on LinkedIn

Follow Jamie’s Blog