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RRC Publishes New Research with Commonwealth: How Participants Are Weathering COVID-19

Posted By Karen Witham, Thursday, June 25, 2020

Read all about our exciting research with Commonwealth on their blog:

Saving Through a Crisis: How LMI Retirement Plan Participants Are Weathering COVID-19

"In the months since the outbreak of COVID-19, the pandemic has continued to expose and exacerbate cracks in people’s financial lives. In our latest research, Commonwealth partnered with the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association’s (DCIIA) Retirement Research Center on a series of surveys to better understand how low- to moderate-income (“LMI”) plan participants are handling their retirement savings during the pandemic and the impact to their financial security.

Read on for four key findings from our first survey1 in this series and how plan sponsors (employers) and record keepers can help people keep their retirement contributions where they belong. ..."


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Just Published: Plan Sponsor Survey on Impact of Coronavirus

Posted By Karen Witham, Wednesday, June 24, 2020

DCIIA’s Retirement Research Center is pleased to announce the publication of COVID-19 Plan Sponsor Pulse Survey Results. This report offers highlights from the RRC’s recent survey of its Plan Sponsor Steering Committee and other plan sponsors.

Read the story:

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Best Practices from Behavioral Economics: Communicating in Times of Crisis

Posted By Karen Witham, Friday, June 5, 2020

DCIIA RRC Executive Director Warren Cormier recently presented to Dimensional Fund Advisors on the topic, "Best Practices from Behavioral Economics: Communicating in Times of Crisis."

In it he noted that the three most powerful drivers of behavior are loss aversion, regret aversion, and trust.

When creating a plan, determine up front what your communication goal is -- it is not just to impart information. What do you want the audience to take away? What do you want your audience to do/believe as a result?

He discussed several tips for building trust while communicating, including:

  • Speak their language
  • No jargon / keep it simple  
  • Be positive, but don’t sugarcoat.

If you're communicating with employees during a crisis:

  • Understand how employees are experiencing a crisis
  • Build trust
  • You NEED to communicate
  • Create empathy
  • Choose the right communicator

Read our related post on Communicating During the Crisis

If you'd like to learn more about Warren's presentation, contact us on

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Comment on DOL Private Equity Information Letter

Posted By Karen Witham, Friday, June 5, 2020

On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the US Department of Labor (DOL) issued an Information Letter to DCIIA member Groom Law Group on clarifying defined contribution (DC) plan fiduciaries' ability to prudently use private equity within a DC plan, and specifically as part of a diversified investment option in the plan.


Since our founding a little over ten years ago, DCIIA has sought to facilitate an informed discussion around the topic of alternatives in DC plans (see DCIIA's white papers: Is It Time to Diversify DC Risk with Alternative Investments?, May 2013, and Capturing The Benefits of Illiquidity, September 2015).


Just last month, DCIIA's Retirement Research Center published the second iteration of its Custom Target Date Fund Survey, the definitive benchmarking report on current practices, including around the use of alternatives, in cTDFs. Data in the report’s “Diversifiers” section shows a prevalence of 1% for private equity as a cTDF asset class. So, we're clearly still in the “early innings” of an informed dialogue around this topic.


DCIIA is committed to continuing to play a constructive role in facilitating an industrywide conversation on where we go from here regarding the use of alternatives in DC plans. To that end, we will continue to engage with our members, plan sponsors, and other industry organizations on this topic as well as supporting related research through the DCIIA Retirement Research Center.

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DCIIA RRC Publishes cTDF Study

Posted By Karen Witham, Tuesday, June 2, 2020

DCIIA's Retirement Research Center is pleased to announce the publication of our second custom target date fund (cTDF) study, which provides a previously unavailable overview of cTDFs. Included in the report are data and commentary on glide paths, performance, and allocations within vintages and by asset class (equity, fixed income, inflation-sensitive, and diversifiers).

Read the study, and access last year's edition, on our website:

Read the Study

The study includes data from 14 asset allocators reporting data for year-end 2018, 91 plans, and 958 unique funds. An investment option was considered a cTDF if it was tailored to the plan demographics, available exclusively to that plan's participant population, and valued daily.

We look forward to the study's continuing evolution over time, which will include expanding coverage of the cTDF universe as well as the incorporation of other data elements. If you have questions about the survey, please contact DCIIA RRC Executive Director Warren Cormier.


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DCIIA / SPARK Survey Highlights Recordkeeper and Plan Sponsor Issues in Light of Pandemic

Posted By Karen Witham, Friday, May 1, 2020

Survey of 21 SPARK Institute Members Provides Insights into Issues Around 401(k) Plan Administration, Workforce Management and CARES Act Implementation

The SPARK Institute and the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA) Retirement Research Center announced today the results of a survey of SPARK members on how they are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. SPARK members (including recordkeepers and other industry investment / service providers) were recently asked to respond to twenty-seven questions related to the crisis and implementation of the CARES Act. Twenty-one firms responded. The topline results showed the following:

Recordkeeper insights: Recordkeepers are adjusting their processes to accommodate coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs). These recordkeepers are tracking CRDs and two-thirds are accepting self-attestations from participants that they meet the eligibility requirement. Over 80% of those surveyed have already updated their systems and procedures to accommodate the CARES Act. Another 9% should be updated within a week. The volume of distribution requests and questions is up significantly. Still, more than two-thirds of the industry is meeting their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to clients.

None of the surveyed companies has plans to lay off or reduce staff, but many have imposed hiring freezes on certain business units. To address shelter-in-place rules and social distancing guidelines, 98% of the industry is now working from home. This is up from 20% in January. The transition to working from home caused minimal disruption since the industry has had work from home procedures in place for more than a decade. To address the increase in employees working from home, recordkeepers have responded with an increased focus on cybersecurity, supplying employees with necessary technology, and online team calls.

Plan sponsor and participant insights: Those surveyed indicated that according to their data, approximately half of plan sponsors are considering reducing employer contributions until the crisis is over. To help avoid this record keepers and plan sponsors are also having discussions about alternative tactics to help address plan expense and cash flow concerns. For example, forfeiture accounts and ERISA budget accounts can be leveraged by plan sponsors to help pay some plan expenses. Additionally, many plan sponsors previously considering an RFP process have decided to put that process on hold. With so many of their employees now working from home, some plan sponsors are concerned with managing paperwork and required document signatures, payroll and staffing issues, and a lack of necessary technology infrastructure.

Unlike in the 2009 financial crisis, most participants are not shifting their investments, but instead are looking for loans or hardship withdrawals. For those participants that are moving assets the shift is toward fixed income products.

“Our industry recognizes the need many Americans have for access to their savings as they face these challenging times, so our industry is working diligently to provide that access to workers,” said Tim Rouse, Executive Director of the SPARK Institute. “When this crisis passes and Americans can turn their attention to saving for their retirement, these same firms will be there to once again support these workers,” he added.

“Many of us are experiencing echoes of the 2008-2009 crisis, although this time is markedly different both in the origins of the crisis and the rapidity of the economic fallout,” said Lew Minsky, President and CEO of DCIIA. “We hope that both plan sponsors and participants will strive to maintain a long-term view in their retirement planning. DCIIA remains committed to working with plan sponsors and the broader retirement savings industry in highlighting ways to close the retirement savings and security gap, an issue that is being highlighted now more than ever as the pandemic reveals systemic gaps in emergency savings and other financial wellbeing issues.”

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Just Published: Plan Sponsor Survey on Auto Features

Posted By Karen Witham, Friday, May 1, 2020

DCIIA has just published the fifth edition of our plan sponsor survey, which was first fielded in 2010. The survey, conducted by DCIIA's Retirement Research Center (RRC), represents the views of 175 defined contribution (DC) plan sponsors.

Read the Survey in Our Resource Library

This year's report offers observations relative to prior survey findings, where applicable, and provides historical perspectives on how plan sponsor behaviors and attitudes towards auto features have developed over time.

Key findings include:

* Auto enrollment saw growth in adoption, to 69% in 2019, up from 60% in 2016. However, future adoption of auto enrollment may slow.

* Presently, 69% of plans offer auto escalation, up from 50% from our prior survey. Auto escalation may also be reaching its maximum adoption level.

*Adoption of QDIA re-enrollment remains limited. This year's survey reports a modest increase, with 24% reporting having ever done a QDIA re-enrollment, up from 18% in the prior survey.

The majority of plans offering auto features see a direct and attributable benefit to their plans' outcomes as a result. The most commonly cited benefit is having higher participation, followed by faster growth of assets in the plan, which can lead to reduced costs.

In their survey responses, plan sponsors indicate that increasing savings rates and improving communications top their list of objectives for their plans. Implementing auto features is directly helping plan sponsors get the results they desire. In short, plan sponsors are adopting auto-feature practices because they recognize that they are working.

If you have questions about the survey, please contact DCIIA RRC Executive Director Warren Cormier on

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RAND BeFi Forum Recap Webinar March 25

Posted By Karen Witham, Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Wednesday, March 25, 2020
10:00 am PT / 1:00 pm ET

Each year, the RAND Behavioral Finance (BeFi) Forum brings together academic, financial, and government leaders to share the latest behavioral research in financial decision-making and related topics.

Join this webinar to hear from RAND BeFi Director Katherine Carman as she shares highlights from their most recent Forum, which covered topics including:

  • Retirement Savings in 401(k) Plans,
  • Investor Behavior,
  • Consumer Credit Behavior,
  • Information and Advice, and
  • Jobs and Precautionary Savings.

The webinar will be moderated by BeFi co-founder and Executive Director of the DCIIA Retirement Research Center, Warren Cormier.

Please contact us on for registration information.

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Warren Cormier in Forbes

Posted By Karen Witham, Wednesday, March 4, 2020

DCIIA RRC's Warren Cormier is quoted in this Forbes article from November 11, 2019:

Don’t Tell Me How To Retire

" . . . And you’ll hear Warren Cormier, an expert who has studied retirement trends for 35 years, talk about what he calls the “two phases of retirement.” The first is “post-retirement,” when you can still be productive and working part-time. The second is “elderhood,” when you can’t. ..."


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Warren Cormier Cited in EBN

Posted By Karen Witham, Wednesday, March 4, 2020

DCIIA RRC's Warren Cormier is cited in this article from EBN  (January 8, 2020):

How financial wellness programs can encourage employee participation in retirement savings by Spencer Williams, President and CEO, Retirement Clearinghouse

". . . Also, “The Mobile Workforce’s Missing Participant Problem,” a study conducted by Boston Research Technologies Founder and CEO Warren Cormier in collaboration with Retirement Clearinghouse (and published in March 2018), found that 60% of participants would prefer an automated process to consolidate their 401(k) accounts and update their addresses in current-employer plans."


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