IRS Benefit Plan Limits for 2018


On October 19, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service released Notice 2017-64, announcing cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that affect contribution limits for retirement plans in 2018. The list below, although not exhaustive, highlights key changes that retirement plan sponsors should be aware of, as well as some limitations that remain unchanged from 2017:

  • The elective deferral limit is increasing from $18,000 to $18,500.
  • The aggregate contribution limit for defined contribution plans is increasing from $54,000 to $55,000.
  • The annual compensation limit used to calculate contributions is increasing from $270,000 to $275,000.
  • The limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan is increasing from $215,000 to $220,000.
  • The dollar limit used in the definition of “key employee” in a top-heavy retirement plan remains unchanged at $175,000.
  • The dollar limit used in the definition of “highly compensated employee” remains unchanged at $120,000.
  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 or older remains unchanged at $6,000.

The table below displays the 2017 and 2018 limits for a host of tax breaks:

401(k) Plan Limits for Plan Year 2018 Limit 2017 Limit
401(k) Elective Deferral Limit1 $18,500 $18,000
Catch-Up Contribution2 $6,000 $6,000
Defined Contribution Dollar Limit $55,000 $54,000
Compensation Limit3 $275,000 $270,000
Highly Compensated Employee Income Limit $120,000 $120,000
Key Employee Officer Limit $175,000 $175,000
Non-401(k) Limits
403(b) Elective Deferral Limit1 $18,500 $18,000
Defined Benefit Dollar Limit $220,000 $215,000
457 Employee Deferral Limit $18,500 $18,000


SEP and SIMPLE IRA Limits 2018 Limit 2017 Limit
SEP Minimum Compensation $600 $600
SEP Maximum Compensation $275,000 $270,000
SIMPLE Contribution Limit $12,500 $12,500
SIMPLE Catch-Up Contribution2 $3,000 $3,000
IRA and Roth Limits
IRA and Roth Contribution Limit $5,500 $5,500
Catch-Up Contribution2 $1,000 $1,000

1Employee deferrals to all 401(k) and 403(b) plans must be aggregated for purposes of this limit.
2Contributors must be age 50 or older during the calendar year.
3All compensation from a single employer (including all members of a controlled group) must be aggregated for purposes of this limit.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Investors should consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, and/or a lawyer.

Mastering Your Company’s Match

percentage money hands.jpg

If I offered to give you $15 back if you gave me $10, would you do it? Of course, you would! That is pretty much the way a 401(k) company match works. If your company offers a matching contribution as part of its 401(k) and a participant contributes to that plan, then the company is giving that employee additional money just for participating. This makes a company match one of the most powerful tools in a participant’s retirement arsenal – if it is used correctly. Here are some ways that a company match can be so powerful.

Give Your Participants a Raise
The general rule of thumb for retirement savings is that on average an individual should save between 10% – 15%. That number can seem daunting to most people. However, add in a company match and that number becomes much more attainable. For instance, if the company match is 50% of the first 6% deferred, then a participant who contributes the full 6% is getting 3% from the company and is now at 9% – much closer to the 10% goal. Also keep in mind that the participant got to that 9% number with only 6% of their own money being contributed. That’s pretty powerful stuff!

Match Wisely
How the company chooses to design the match can have significant impacts on participant behavior. If the company front-loads a match, such as offering a 100% match on the first 3% deferred, it may be inadvertently dissuading participants from contributing more than 3% of their own money. Also, if too little match is offered, then the company may miss out on the incentive feature that a match can offer. Therefore, it is important to assess how much money your company can afford to allot to match money and then design your match to encourage your participants to defer as much as possible into the plan.

Give the Plan Some Relief
If your company is already offering a match and plans to continue doing so in the future and/or if the plan regularly fails annual compliance testing, then you may want to consider a Safe Harbor Match plan design. A traditional Safe Harbor Match is as follows: 100% of the first 3% deferred and 50% of the next 2% deferred. Therefore, if a participant contributes 5% of their own money, the company would match 4%. The other caveat with a Safe Harbor Match is that the money that the company contributes to the Safe Harbor Match is immediately 100% vested, which means it is the participants to take if she ever leaves the company. What makes a Safe Harbor Match so powerful is that by offering it, the plan is deemed to pass annual compliance testing, which means no more refunds to highly compensated employees if the plan would have otherwise failed testing. It also is an amazing benefit to your participants since a 5% deferral plus a 4% match gets them pretty close to that 10% goal.

A company match is a tremendous incentive that can help your employees meet their retirement goals. If you would like an analysis of your company’s current match structure or if you would like to discuss implementing a company match, please give me a call at 205-970-9088 or email me at

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!

Just a different point of view; Left Brain, Right Brain


Does the thought of reading your plan document make your skin crawl or excite you for all of the information it contains at your fingertips?  Would you rather look a diagram of how to build your daughter’s play kitchen or read the written instructions (in all 5 languages thank you)?  Questions like these are often used to help you identify if you are left brain dominant or right brain dominant.  Traditionally, is has been thought that if you identify with loving to read manuals, following the instructions, and diving into the details then you are left brain dominant; whereas if you respond strongly to art and images, want to be left alone to do your own thing, and value the big picture over the details then you are right brain.  Here are some questions that Caleb Bagwell and I answered that will further illustrate the differences in the dominate brains.  Can you guess what we are?

As a birthday present, your friend bought you one of the latest kitchen gadgets on the market – apparently, it can slice, dice, and make juice at the same time. The only problem is, you have no idea how the darn thing works. What do you do?

Jamie: This could go a couple of ways.  The first thing that I’d do is get online and look-up the instruction manual.  If the manual could not be located, it would promptly be returned or thrown out the window!

Caleb: This one is easy, just start pressing buttons! Seriously, the box told me all the stuff that it did and so trial and error will be all I need to figure out the correct combination of buttons or knobs to get things going!

If you could have 3 hours to yourself to go do whatever you liked, what would you do?

Jamie: Well, I have 2 young children, so I would like to think that I would lay out by the pool and read a good book, but since I have a hard time relaxing until the house is clean, I’d probably end up cleaning.

Caleb: Totally depends on the weather.  If it is sunny that I would be outside on a jog or grilling something tasty.  If it is rainy that it is definitely a movie/nap opportunity, with PIZZA.

How would you describe the neatness of your desk?

Jamie: Everything has its place and even though it may not be as neat as I would like, I know my system and how to find things.

Caleb: Perfect Chaos, but really it’s more like LIFO.  Things go in stacks and depending on when I was working on what project tells me how far down the stack to look for it.  Once a coworker cleaned me desk for me and I had anxiety attack! How was I supposed to find anything!

Would you rather draw someone a map or tell them how to get where they are going?

Jamie: Draw a map or rather give them the address so they can plug it into their GSP.

Caleb: Actually I’m pretty bad with direction and worse at drawing.  I would say use your GPS your holding one in your hand!

Before you take a stand on an issue, do you gather all of the facts or go with your gut right away?

Jamie: Definitely gather all of the facts; it is important to me to know why I am making the decision that I am making.

Caleb: Depends on the outcome resulting in my conviction.  If we are taking a stand on whether the crunch wrap supreme or beefy crunch burrito is better I am ready now, but if we are taking a stand that will affect others I would probably want someone who is an expert on the subject to help me with the details.

How quickly can you tell if you like someone?

Jamie: Not very.  I am usually pretty cautious when it comes to forging new relationships.

 Caleb: Seconds.  Seriously but that’s kind of an unfair questions because I tend to like everyone until they prove me wrong.

You may be asking yourself “why this is important in the context of 401(k) plans?”  What it comes down to is that traditionally retirement plan education has appealed to predominately the analytical, left brain by doling out a bunch of numbers and figures that tend to overwhelm, confuse, and, frankly, bore the people who you are trying to appeal to.  We are aiming to change the norm by not ignoring the details and the numbers, but rather by incorporating the emotional, creative right brain to help the left brain process the information.  In fact, recent research has shown that the brain performs better when both sides are involved, especially when completing tasks associated with mathematics (American Psychological Association, April 11, 2014) like determining how much to defer into a 401(k) plan.

That’s right Jamie, I have to remind myself sometimes that many people enjoy the details but the fact is people need to know “Why” they are making decision.  Helping them find the “Why” behind their retirement savings make the processing of the details possible.  They need to understand they are not saving for a number they are saving for trip to Disney with the grandkids!  Spouting out number at a group of your employees is not connecting with them, helping them channel their creativity and  use it to paint their retirement picture bridges that gap.

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

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Busy women fall short in retirement readiness

busywomenI have the great pleasure of working with investment and retirement committees day in and day out that tackle the tough task of managing a retirement plan that will, more than likely, be a main source of retirement income for their valued employees in the future. In most every case, these committees have at least one female who is at the table helping shape the future for her people at work. As a woman, I know that it is second nature to want to take care of other people first; sometimes out of necessity and other times because taking care of other people’s problems allows us the ability to push our own problems further down the line. However, when it comes to preparing for our own retirement futures, putting our own needs at the bottom of the pile can be a big mistake. The fact of the matter is that in households today women make the financial decisions. Need proof? Women make 85 percent of all brand purchases (Stephanie Holland, shecomony) and according to Nielson Consumer 04-02-2013, women’s purchasing power ranges anywhere from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. So why are we still delaying putting a plan together for how we are going to live and spend in retirement?   If you would like to discuss how becoming more financially prepared for the future can help you today, please let me know.

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

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What is keeping your employees awake at night?

shutterstock_171835172A recent survey finds that 62% of Americans are losing sleep over at least one financial problem, and the most common worry? Retirement savings.

According to a 2015 report, people are up counting sheep at night concerned about some serious money issues.

  • The most common money fret is saving enough for retirement; two in five Americans say this keeps them up at night at least occasionally. People between the ages of 50 and 64 are the most concerned (50% said they fret about their retirement savings – or lack thereof – in the wee hours).
  • The second-biggest concern is educational expenses. This time, it’s younger adults who are the most troubled. 50% of 18-29 year-olds are losing sleep worrying about how they’re going to pay for educational expenses (much higher than the 31% of the overall population who have this fear). Student loan repayment is a sincere, honest concern for young Americans. Trent Grinkmeyer had a great article recently for parents of young children with ways to save for their college education. It seems as if more parents had saved and prepared 20-25 years ago, there would be a lot more people sleeping well tonight.
  • 29% of Americans are losing sleep because of healthcare/insurance bills, 27% because of their ability to pay the monthly mortgage/rent and 21% because of credit card debt.One thing that all of these concerns have in common is that they can be solved, or at least lessened, with proper planning. Working with a qualified financial advisor to assist your people with financial topics such as budgeting, debt reduction, and retirement readiness, can make the difference between a well-rested, alert workforce and groggy, stressed-out employee population.




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

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Friday Funny {May 5, 2016}

Bk0X2xhCIAAlT8AThis week’s Friday Funny isn’t as funny as it is true.

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

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You cannot spell HERO without HR

hr2.jpgIt is not often when I am really caught off guard by a remark, but recently while attending a panel style discussion lead by three Human Resource Managers that also serve as 401(k) Plan Sponsors, one of them made a comment that threw me for a loop. She said, “People don’t realize what a lonely job being a Human Resource Manager can be.” She went on to elaborate on the fact that few, if any, members of a company can really appreciate all that the HR professional has to do throughout the day. The rest of the panel members agreed and listed off a myriad of tasks from personnel manager to staffing firm to marriage counselor that most members of human resources serve as besides their official written job description. In an effort to bring others into your personal world or to at least garner a better appreciation for what you do, here are a few much easier said than done ideas for HR professionals.

  1. Find a sidekick– The HR workforce is full of superheroes; and superheroes never need for help, right? Wrong! We all know that Batman had Robin and Wonder Woman had Wonder Girl. Therefore, it is so important that you finds an individual either within the organization or outside to assist with the tasks that you are too busy to tackle to help you free up some time to continue saving the world (or at least your company). Look to your advisers and product providers for resources that they can provide to help you do your best work.
  2. Ask for help – One of the hallmarks of an awesome HR professional is the level of care and selfness that they often exhibit; often to the point that they do not want to appear overwhelmed for the fear that they might burden another employee. However, by not asking anyone for help, you may be creating unnecessary work and/or stress for yourself down the line. Asking for help can also be a great way to involve those valued individuals who report to you by allowing them some extra responsibility.
  3. Delegate more – Delegating is the hardest task for me personally, since I like many hard-working professionals, think my way is often the best way. Recently though I have come to the realization that done beats perfect every time and my way isn’t necessarily the only way. While it is extremely important that tasks get done to your standards, it is also important that items that you do not love to do or are too busy to complete get done as well. Figure out the items that you can let go to free up time to do what you do best.
  4. Say “No” – While you may not be able to say no to the employee standing at your door or your boss demanding an immediate response to an email, there are ways to say little no’s throughout the day. Thinking of saying no to things like checking Facebook every 15 minutes or sitting in on a weekly meeting that does not impact the way you do business as a way to free up time. Also, consider turning your email off for an hour a day as a way to focus on completing outstanding projects. If you are one of those HR superheroes who feels like they could use a sidekick, I would love to talk to you about ways to find advocates and to ask for assistance. As a HR professional, you do so much for your company; isn’t it time for someone to help you?


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

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Reaching Your Hand Into the 401k Cookie Jar

shutterstock_291564959Caleb Bagwell, Education Specialist for Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial, does a wonderful employee education presentation where he compares accounts used for keeping money as cookie jars. For example, your checking account is a blue jar, your savings account is a yellow jar, and your 401(k) account is a green jar. From there he goes on to explain that the investments within those jars are the cookies; sugar cookies are a money market, chocolate chip domestic equity, white chocolate macadamia are internal equities, and so on. (For more Calebism’s check out his blog ) . So what happens when your blue checking account is running low and you need some more cookies ? A significant number of people turn to their green 401(k) jar because, after all, it is your money to begin with. Although, this may seem like a quick and easy fix, it can have long term negative effects on your ability to retire.

Should You Really Be Reaching Into the Jar?

T. Rowe Price recently conducted its eighth annual Parents, Kids, & Money survey and found that 44% of parents said that in the past two years they had used money saved for retirement for a non-emergency expense. Around 17% used the money to pay off debt which could be a semi-sound financial move depending on the interest rate of the debt paid off, but an equal amount, around 17%, said they had used the money to pay for vacation and 16% used the money for their children’s education. Let’s start with vacation. While I am an advocate for work-life balance and think that a well-deserved week away from the office does an employee good, a vacation falls into the category of “if you can’t pay for it, you shouldn’t do it”, especially if it means dipping into your retirement savings. Using your retirement savings to fund a child’s education can also be an inappropriate use of your money. While loan, particularly student loan, has become a four letter word, the truth is that your children have a much longer time span to pay off a student loan, then you have to save for retirement.

But They Are My Cookies to Begin With!

shutterstock_111436112.jpgOne of the most common arguments I hear as a reason to take loan from your 401(k) account is that is it you are paying yourself back rather than a financial institution. However, there are several reasons why this argument leads to a slippery slope. The first, and main reason, is you are paying yourself back with after-tax money and that money will be taxed again when you take it out in retirement as a distribution from your 401(k) account! To explain, If you are in the 25% tax bracket, earning $1 only gives you $0.75 toward repaying the loan, and that $0.75 will be taxed again when you retire and withdraw if from your plan. The second factor to consider is opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the alternative that is given up when a choice is made; in regards to your 401(k) that cost is the potential market gain that you are missing out on while your money is out of the plan. A third reason to consider about taking out a 401(k) loan is that you have potentially handcuffed yourself to your current employer. The full balance of a loan becomes due when you terminate employment and if you cannot repay the total amount, then whatever you cannot pay back becomes a taxable distribution that is also subject to a 10% penalty if you are under age 59 1/2. First consider the fact that the term for most 401(k) loans is 5 years. Then consider that according to a 2015 study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that of the jobs that workers began when they were 18 to 24 years of age, 69% of those jobs ended in less than a year and 93% ended in fewer than 5 years and among jobs started by 40 to 48 year olds, 32% ended in less than a year and 69% ended in fewer than 5 years. Consider those 2 facts together and it is reasonable to think that the majority of employees who take out a 401(k) loan will not be at their employer long enough to be pay it back in full.

Just Say No

While the idea of dipping into your retirement savings to take care of a today need may be as tempting as biting into a warm chocolate chip cookie, in most cases it is best to just say no! Once you say no once to compromising your retirement savings, it will get easier and from there you can start to address the underlying reason why you probably needed the loan in the first place, the lack of sufficient savings. The T Rowe survey mentioned earlier also found that 72% of parents don’t have enough savings to cover at least 3 months of living expenses and 49% said they didn’t have an emergency account at all. We have some great resources that speak to the importance of budgeting and would be happy to help your employees start the process of setting and following a budget.

Cookies and 401(k) loans are tempting because they are usually easily accessible and have a certain level of immediate gratification. Let us at Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial help you find a better way to tame the temptation.

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

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25 Interesting Facts About Millennials

1abThere were 53.5 million Millennials employed in the United States as of May 2015, and by 2025, this generation will comprise almost 75% of the US workforce. Think about that, in less than 10 years 3 out of 4 people who are working in America will be have born between 1980 and 2001.      How much do you know about this upward rising generation other than their stereotype? Yes, they are adults who still like to play video games.   Yes, they have no idea what a typewriter was used for.   And, yes they are technology-dependent, eco-friendly, hipsters who like music that no other generation can possibly tolerate; but there’s more.

Here are 25 things to think about as you recruit, hire and retain Millennial employees:

  1. Pay ranks first among job factors that matter most to this cohort. Meaningful work is second, positive relationships with co-workers third and flexibility fourth.
  2. 82% of Millennials did not negotiate their salary, either because they were uncomfortable doing so or didn’t realize it was an option.
  3. 37% of Millennials left their first full-time job within two years.
  4. 26% said a better salary would have kept them around longer; 17% would have stayed with a clearer sense of how to advance in the organization.
  5. 63% know someone who had to move back home because of the economy.
  6. Millennials list Google, Apple, Facebook, the US State Department and Disney as their top ideal employers.
  7. 94% enjoy doing work that benefits a cause.
  8. 63% want their employer to contribute to a social cause.
  9. 77% would prefer to do community work with other employees, rather than on their own.
  10. 57% want their organization to provide companywide service days.
  11. 47% had volunteered on their own in the past month.
  12. 75% see themselves as authentic and are not willing to compromise their family and personal values.
  13. $45,000 is the average amount of debt carried by Millennials.
  14. More than 63% of Millennial workers have a bachelor’s degree, but 48% of employed college grads have jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.
  15. 70% have “friended” their colleagues or supervisors on Facebook.
  16. $24,000 is the average cost of replacing a Millennial employee.
  17. 15% of Millennials are already managers.
  18. 56% wouldn’t work for an organization that blocks social media access.
  19. 69% believe it’s unnecessary to work from the office regularly.
  20. 41% have no landline phone access and rely solely on their mobile phone.
  21. 65% of Millennials say losing their phone or computer would have a greater negative impact on their daily routine than losing their car.
  22. 29% of Millennial workers think work meetings to decide on a course of action are very efficient. Compared to 45% of Boomers
  23. 54% want to start a business or already have done so.
  24. 35% have started a side business to augment their income.
  25. 80% of Millennials said they prefer on-the-spot recognition over formal reviews, and feel that this is imperative for their growth and understanding of a job.

1a.jpgThere is a lot of interesting facts here. I think we could use them in all sorts of contexts; think about it all specifically in terms of hiring employees and even more important for retaining them. Employee turnover costs skyrocketing. According to the Center for America Progress, the replacement cost of an employee who earns $30,000 to $50,000 a year is 20% of annual salary for those mid-range positions. So the cost to replace a $40k employee would be $8,000. For higher level employees, the replacement costs skyrockets to 150-200%.   For a $100,000 employee, the cost just to replace him/her can be easily $150,000.

The influence of a strong company culture is a huge factor that results can equate to what Gen Xers and Baby Boomers look at as loyalty.   Millennials can be long-term, engaged employees, but not at 1970, 1990 or even 2010 standards.   It is time to make some changes.   It will cost you too much not to.


  • Society for Human Resource Management, The Brookings Institution, Dan Schawbel

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

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