Higher Education Retirement Planning Program

In the past it was not uncommon for colleges and universities to have multiple investment providers for their 403(b) plans that simply payroll deducted investment contributions. Colleges and universities were not required to review investments for returns and fees; nor were they required to monitor these plans on an ongoing basis. As a result, we see many college plans that are very outdated, costly, and generally non-compliant. In addition, we see participants paying sales loads on mutual funds and potentially surrender charges on annuities that were sold by brokers and salespeople which have an impact on their returns and thus their retirement account balances.

Miller Financial Services works with colleges and universities in need of updating their plans regardless if they have a sole investment provider like TIAA, or multiple investment providers more commonly seen in community colleges. At Miller Financial Services, it is important to note that we work with retirement plan providers like TIAA, and we are not in competition with them. Our goal is to provide independent and unbiased advice to both the Plan and its participants.

Retirement Plan Sponsor Services

Miller Financial Services assists Plan Sponsors and their fiduciaries with the following services:

  1. Fiduciary Services
    Our firm will act as a co-fiduciary of the Plan regarding investments, which means we will sit on the same side of the table as the College or University. This can be done in a 3(21) or 3(38) capacity. In addition, for Plans that require the services of an outside TPA (Third Party Administration), we will help Plan Sponsors choose the best TPA to fit their needs.
  2. Create an Investment Policy Statement (IPS)
    The IPS is a document that establishes the Plans’ investment objectives, investment philosophy, investment selection criteria, and policies for the ongoing monitoring of the Plans’ investments. Considered a component of fiduciary "Best Practices", we unfortunately see many Plans operating without a valid Investment Policy Statement.
  3. Selecting Plan Investments
    Many Plans only offer proprietary funds from one Plan provider (TIAA is an example) or offer multiple vendors with multiple investment options. All too often, Plans have no objective selection criteria and thus have accepted what the current investment providers have offered. Furthermore, the college or university has no idea of the sales charges, costs, and surrender charges their participants are incurring. Plan Sponsors should offer a diverse menu of investments to their participants. Miller Financial Services works with Plan Providers who offer “open architecture” retirement plans. Open Architecture offerings allow Plans to select from investment choices from thousands of mutual funds. Our firm will assist Plan Sponsors in simplifying the investment offerings and evaluate the costs and fees associated with the fund line-up.
  4. Update Plan Document
    A written Plan Document is a must for all 403(b) plans and most Plan Documents are outdated and need attention to remain in compliance with any new regulations. We assist Plan Sponsors in reviewing and updating the Plan document. We review conditions such as entry dates, matching formulas, and vesting schedules to identify any inconsistencies in operating the Plan. Often times, our firm works with the Third-Party Administrator (TPA) or legal counsel to update the document with the appropriate provisions and help implement procedures to follow the document going forward.
  5. Ongoing Monitor and Managing of the Plan
    Regulations also require ongoing investment monitoring of the plan. Miller Financial Services monitors plan investments and will recommend any replacement funds or changes on an as needed basis. Our firm also makes sure that there are policies and procedures in place to follow the Investment Policy Statement and Plan Document.

Plan Participant Services

Colleges and Universities want to ensure their Retirement Plan(s) offer participant services that will satisfy all types of investors.

  1. Allows every employee to achieve retirement success, regardless of experience, by providing portfolios that fit their risk tolerance and achieve benchmark returns.
  2. Provides the opportunity for employees to meet with an independent Advisor with unbiased advice/education to help create a personalized plan to meet their investment and financial goals.

The main challenge for Plans when it comes to participant services is the fact that employees have various levels of investment knowledge. We believe plans do not effectively address this dichotomy of participants, thus creating a Plan that works only for some participants. Most participants are not satisfied with call centers, limited face-to-face meetings, or default investment options such as target date retirement funds. Furthermore, many Plan participants do not have the time or desire to manage their retirement accounts on their own. Finally, many participants have more complicated financial situations outside of their employer-sponsored retirement plans that require a "hands on" approach by a professional advisor.

Miller Financial Services provides an independent, unbiased solution for participants. We believe that all advice and ongoing management must be personalized and specific to each client’s needs and objectives. This results in a fully comprehensive and integrated plan for each willing participant. This is important as we only provide the services to those employees that want personalized and independent advice. We offer employees two types of services:

  1. Active Management
    We will work with each employee individually to identify their risk tolerance. The employee then has the ability to engage our firm to provide the ongoing discretionary investment management of their account(s). This discretionary investment management service allows employees to receive proactive management of their retirement and/or taxable account(s).
  2. Advice Only
    This service allows employees to engage our firm on an hourly or flat fee basis. This service requires the employees to implement any changes or ongoing selections on their own.
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