Welcome to PC Online, the online home of ASPPA’s Plan Consultant magazine! 

Here you’ll find selected articles from PC magazine dating back to 2012, when The ASPPA Journal (TAJ) was renamed as Plan Consultant. (To view our archive of TAJ issues dating back to 1997, click here.) 

The articles listed below are organized by general topic area; the topic categories are in alphabetic order. Each article includes the publication date and a link at the beginning to a pdf of the article as it appeared in the magazine. Also, please note that while PC Online provides a wealth of valuable content from the magazine, it is not intended to be a comprehensive archive — articles that are not part of PC Online are available in our full-issue archive. 

For more information about the print edition of Plan Consultant, select a link:

We’re always looking for ways to enhance and expand the content provided on ASPPA Net’s Resources tab. Got a good idea? Please share it with us — contact John Ortman at jortman@usaretirement.org


Single-Participant DB Plans: 4 Keys to Success 

By Lynn Young and Kevin Donovan 

Many problems in solo owner-participant defined benefit plans can be avoided by knowing what your client’s funding objectives and projected cash flow are before you design the plan. (Summer 2014)


By Joseph Whisnant 

MAP-21 relief may help sponsors manage contribution levels and ease restrictions. But what’s the best path for a small employer sponsoring a defined benefit plan? (Spring 2014)

GASB’s New Rules on Uniformity and Disclosure

By Bill Karbon 

An overview of the newly issued GASB rules applicable to public pension plans, the reasons for their implementation and issues created by the new standards. (Winter 2014) 

LDI: A Pension Strategy Open to Any Plan (Not Just for the Big Boys) 
By John Cierzniak 

Liability Driven Investing gets the plan sponsor focused on what the true objective is for a pension plan — to provide what’s being promised in the plan. (Fall 2013)

By Douglas Lane 

How a cash balance plan can mitigate the three adverse factors affecting DB plans — declining interest rates, volatile asset returns and liability/asset mismatches. (Summer 2013) 

Replacing Betty: Why DB Plan Outsourcing Makes Sense 

By David Benbow 

Betty may be a sweetheart, but she’s only human. If she’s having trouble keeping up with changing pension regulations, maybe it’s time to outsource. (Spring 2013) 

Distributions After Normal Retirement Age: Are You Prepared? (Part II) 
By James E. Holland 

Part two of our analysis of situations where a plan participant in a defined benefit plan didn't commence benefits at normal retirement age and now requires a calculation of the benefits to be paid. (Winter 2013)

By James E. Holland 

What happens when a participant in a DB plan wants to retire after normal retirement age? The answers can get complicated. (Fall 2012)

Form 8955-SSA Participant Statement: Clearing Up the Confusion 
By David Benbow 

Schedule SSA of Form 5500 has long been used by benefit plan administrators to report participants who are entitled to future benefits. However, this schedule has been replaced by the recently released Form 8955-SSA in order to remove participant Social Security numbers from the Form 5500 filing package. (Spring 2012)


Retirement Plan Asset Sharing in a Divorce

By Howard Phillips

Mistakes can be costly. (Fall 2015)


A Key Beneficiary Provision in PPA Plan Documents 

By Paul Carmichael

One example of how plan document evolution protects and clarifies basic values. (Fall 2015)


The Seamless Web of Records Retention 
By John Nestico 

Records retention represents the intersection of many disparate legal principles and issues, including the scope of a fiduciary’s duty and the statute of limitations — which are currently under consideration by the Supreme Court. (Summer 2015)

By David Pickle 

ERISA’s bond requirement is straightforward in many respects, but certain aspects of the requirement are complicated. (Spring 2015)

Re-enrollment: Getting Participants on the Right Track

By Catherine Peterson 

Re-enrollment offers the most appealing combination of potential advantages to both plan sponsors and participants. (Fall 2014)


Retirement Income Projections

By Genelle Brakefield 

The comment period for the DOL’s ANPRM on providing retirement income projections to participants ended in July 2013, but the discussion is just beginning. 
By Ted Rice

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, difficult issues may arise in states where same-sex marriages are not permitted or where the retroactive effect of Windsor is at issue. Here’s a closer look at where things stand.

By Lauren Okum 

Once the decision is made to proceed with a plan termination, the first step is to get organized. Here are some helpful tips on developing and executing a termination strategy. (Winter 2014) 


By JJ McKinney 

Growing a third party administration firm has many challenges, but none is as difficult as attracting, developing and retaining qualified staff for the work that needs to be done. (Fall 2013)

The Role of Pre-Retirement Disability in Retirement Security 

By David Kaleda and Anna Rappaport 

How does disability relate to retirement security? The rise of DC plans and decline of DB plans has brought in-plan out out-of-plan options to the fore. (Summer 2013) 

Navigating the Risks of Plan Changes

By Mark Sweatman 

Advisors should have their clients put procedures in place for dealing with missing participants, uncashed checks, and plan terminations. (Fall 2012)


By Peter Swire and Kenesa Ahmad 

Electronic delivery is the best and most efficient way to provide required financial information to retirement plan participants, not to mention its invisible environmental footprint. (Summer 2012)

By Stephen Saxon 

Participants should be able to use debit cards when accessing automated loan programs. (Spring 2012)

What to Do With Those Uncashed Checks 

By Terry Dunne 

People all over the country are owed money from their former employer’s retirement plan. Companies have attempted to send the distributions to participants but the checks came back as “address unknown” or the checks were just never cashed. (Winter 2012)

Capturing Plan Rollovers
By Fred Reish, Bruce Ashton, Joan Neri and Joshua Waldbeser 

What advisors should do now in light of increased scrutiny by the DOL and recommendations in a 2013 GAO report on rollovers. (Spring 2014)


By Paul Kociuruba and John Ashford

Qualified Longevity Annuity Contracts offer many positive opportunities. But potential challenges exist as well. Here’s a look under the hood. (Summer 2015)

Auto IRA
By John Iekel 

State ‘laboratories of democracy’ tackle retirement security by studying and testing auto-IRA programs. (Summer 2015)

Business Practices

SWOT Analysis for the Retirement Industry

By John Ortman

A WBC session featuring three thought leaders takes a freewheeling look at the state of the industry today. (Fall 2015)

TPAs as the Vanguard of Participant Outcomes

By Jake Linney 

Firms that embrace systematic approaches to increasing coverage and participation will enjoy more growth and strategic partnership opportunities. (Spring 2015)

Solving the Mystery of TPA Revenue Sharing Arrangements 

By Ian Diffendaffer and Aaron McIsaac 

A look at the pricing strategies that TPA firms employ today to take advantage of revenue sharing payments. (Fall 2014)

By Greg Middleton 

For a plan sponsor, creating and executing a productive advisor RFP process doesn’t have to be intimidating. (Summer 2014)

Winning the Game: Six Best Practices for Businesses 

By Chris Stroud 

Following these six best practices in game terminology can improve your firm’s ability to execute and increase your chances of success. (Winter 2014)

By Geoff Dietrich 

Adding guarantees to the defined benefit fixed income conversation. (Fall 2013)

The Benefits of an ASPPA Benefits Council

By Norman Pierce and James Comer 

There are many benefits to having an ASPPA Benefits Council in your area. Here are some tips on getting one started. (Summer 2013)

By Susan Diehl 

Pre-approved DC plans were designed to make implementation easier and more efficient. Here’s how two such programs, the Master & Prototype and the Volume Submitter, are supposed to work. (Summer 2012) 

Don’t Be Boring in the Boardroom: Make Effective Sales Presentations 
By Gary DeMoss 

Addressing clients around a conference room table requires its own set of rules and preparation. (Spring 2012)


By Jim Houpt and Bob Eastwood 

Failing to correctly apply the controlled or affiliated service group rules can result in big problems. Here’s a quick refresher course. (Winter 2015) 

DB Plans for Young Owners? 

By Jake Linney 

The age of the owner of a small business should not be the deciding factor in deciding whether to sponsor a defined benefit plan. (Fall 2014)

By Christopher Conti 

With the right amount of planning, a competent auditor and a cooperative plan sponsor can get through the audit process quickly and efficiently. Here’s how. (Summer 2014)

The Operational Assessment: Understanding Your Organization from Within to Achieve Sustainable Success 

By Greg Clark 

Closing the gaps in your processes in order to serve your clients better is a great strategic move, and an operational assessment program can help you create a roadmap to achieve that goal. (Fall 2013

The Ominous Cash or Deferred Arrangement

By JJ McKinney 

A dive into the operational issues and problematic consequences of errors in administering CODAs, using three examples. (Summer 2013)

Form 5500 Filings: Trips and Traps Under Section 408(b)(2) 

By Fred Reish, Bruce Ashton and Joshua Waldbeser 


When dealing with 408(b)(2) issues, here’s how record keepers, TPAs and auditors can provide a valuable service to their plan sponsor clients and, at the same time, protect themselves from exposure to malpractice claims by those clients. (Spring 2013)

The Brave New World of E-Delivery

By James Culbreth 


DOL guidance has advanced the methods through which plan participants may receive required disclosures and plan information in a world increasingly dominated by electronic communications. (Spring 2013) 

By Pete Swisher

Mark Twain famously quipped upon receiving an erroneous report that he had died, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Today we could say the same of multiple employer plans. (Spring 2013)

By Josh Cohen and Ben Jones 

Plan sponsors and advisors commonly benchmark their plans to industry averages, but is average what we should be striving for? Especially in an industry that most observers suggest needs improvement? (Winter 2013)


IRC 412(i) Abuses: Was the IRS Initiative Overkill? 

By Martin Heming and Holly Scott  

In the post 2008 economic world, the conservative alternative to the traditional defined benefit plan offered by a 412(i) plan could have had an important place. (Fall 2012)  


By Gary Blachman and Bret Clark 

Whether it’s a call from a participant wondering why the deferral election he made nine months ago wasn’t implemented or an email from the record-keeper asking for an amendment that was never signed, the specter of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) looms large whenever a retirement plan sponsor discovers an error. (Summer 2012)

Policy Statements and the Fiduciary 

By David Hudak 

An investment policy statement (IPS) is an essential tool in helping plan sponsors develop and follow a fiduciary governance program. As a best practice, a good fiduciary governance program has an established process, ensures the process is followed, and documents each step in the program. (Winter 2012)

DB Plans

DB Plan Takeovers

By Lauren Okum

Beware the 80/20/80 takeover rule. (Fall 2015)

The Right Way to Sell a Cash Balance Plan 

By Max Wyman

Just because a cash balance makes sense for a plan sponsor demographically doesn’t mean it’s in their best interest — but very few, if any, plan sponsors can make that decision on their own. (Summer 2015) 

A Christmas Gift For Multiemployer Plans 
By James E. Holland 

The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, enacted in December, included several surprises for those who work on multiemployer pension plans. (Spring 2015) 


Retirement Plan Education, In-House Style

By John Iekel

Here's a look at a program an employer devised for itself to educate and motivate employees to participate in its retirement plan. (Summer 2016)

Brainstorming: The Importance of ‘Right’

By Sarah Simoneaux and Chris Stroud 

Employee brainstorming sessions can be an essential part of your firm’s annual business planning process. Here’s how to do it right. (Summer 2014) 

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate 
By Sarah Simoneaux 

Delivering a message in the most positive way possible is key to avoid triggering negative emotions. (Spring 2014)

By Sarah Simoneaux 

A look at how Alliance Benefit Group has used ASPPA’s education programs to differentiate itself in the retirement plan services profession. (Winter 2014)

Conversion Communication in a Commoditized World 
By Sarah Simoneaux 

Plan conversion, no matter how we thin-slice it, is a detailed and complex process. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication in it. (Fall 2013)

By Sarah Simoneaux 

A six-point plan for tackling ASPPA’s online certificate exams. (Summer 2013)

Bridging the Generation Gap in Retirement Savings — Part 3 
By Sarah Simoneaux 

Today, businesses are working to transfer and document technical and client relationship information before it walks out the door. While Boomers and Gen Xers will probably manage these changes for the next few years, many of the changes themselves will be driven by what we’ve already learned and continue to learn from the Millennials. Their future is our future. (Spring 2013)

By Sarah Simoneaux 

When it comes to learning, each generation has its own way of interacting with technology, and that interaction is crucial to business success. (Winter 2013) 

Bridging the Generation Gap in Retirement Services — Part 1 
By Sarah Simoneaux

For several years, we’ve heard about the “Graying of America” as Baby Boomers approach retirement. The retirement services industry is experiencing a similar type of “graying.” (Fall 2012)

By Sarah Simoneaux 

FINRA’s website offers a one-stop shop for retirement professionals looking for the best credential that will build trust and enhance their bottom line. (Summer 2012)

By Sarah Simoneaux 

Variety and short, intensive study periods work as well for adult CPE students as they do for younger learners. (Spring 2012) 

Ten Real-World Tips for Taming the CPE Beast 
By Sarah Simoneaux 

How to get the most out of conferences, webcasts, seminars and your colleagues when fulfilling your continuing professional education requirements. (Winter 2012)


Fiduciary Responsibilities for Non-ERISA Governmental Plans — Part III 
By Dannae Delano, Thomas Clark, Jr. and Jamie Mahler 

The last of a three-part series addresses the fiduciary responsibilities of non-ERISA plans established and maintained by government entities. (Spring 2015)

By Dannae Delano, Thomas Clark, Jr. and Jamie Mahler 

The second of a three-part series addresses the fiduciary responsibilities of non-ERISA plans established and maintained by churches. (Winter 2015)

Fiduciary Responsibilities for Non-ERISA Non-profit 403(b) Plans — Part I 

By Dannae Delano, Thomas Clark, Jr. and Jamie Mahler 

This first of a series looks at the fiduciary responsibilities of non-ERISA 403(b) plans established and maintained by non-profit employers. (Fall 2014)


Professionals Behaving Badly
By Lauren Bloom 

A professional's public disgrace can reflect badly not only on the individual, but on his profession as a whole. (Fall 2015)


Questions of Qualification 
By Lauren Bloom 

Here are six things to consider when faced with a question about your professional qualifications. (Summer 2015)

By Lauren Bloom 

It’s good practice for pension professionals to take appropriate steps to control their work products and minimize the risks that come with modern technology. (Spring 2015)

The Ethical Actuary

By Richard Kutikoff 

We must be aware of ethical dilemmas and how to resolve them. These can be the most challenging decisions we have to make. (Summer 2014)

By Don Trone 

Any meaningful, positive change in the ethical conduct of our industry can only come about if you are willing to accept a greater leadership and stewardship role. (Fall 2013)

Confidentiality and the ASPPA Code of Conduct  

By Karen Smith 

Effective July 1, ASPPA’s newly revised Code of Conduct goes into effect, including the duty of confidentiality. How does the Code define confidentiality and to whom is the duty owed? (Summer 2013) 

Goldilocks and the Three Fiduciaries

By Anne Comer and James Culbreth

As more companies promote a third option for plan sponsors to reduce their fiduciary liabilities — the 3(16) fiduciary — it’s important to remember that reality may not align with our expectations. Making the right decision comes down to critical thinking, not — like Goldilocks did — simply trusting that the third choice is “just right.” (Spring 2013)

By Lauren Bloom 

Keeping a close eye on a subordinate’s work can help keep you both out of trouble. (Winter 2013)

By Lauren Bloom 

Admitting a mistake may make you feel foolish in the short term, but it’s the best way to build and maintain long-term trust. (Summer 2012)
By Lauren Bloom 

Clients expect their advisors to be objective, and to offer their best advice in the clients’ interest. (Spring 2012) 

ASPPA Code of Professional Conduct Ethical Requirements 
By Sheldon Smith

Examining the ASPPA Code of Professional Conduct. (Winter 2012)

Fiduciary Governance

Buyer Beware 
By Marcia Wagner

Hiring a 3(16) fiduciary is rife with important decisions on the part of a plan sponsor, as well as a significant degree of complexity. The key: fiduciary oversight responsibilities can never be totally eliminated. (Summer 2013)   

Inside ASPPA


We Have a Professional Conduct Committee? 
By Susan Perry 

Yes, we do have a Professional Conduct Committee. Here’s how it handles complaints about members. (Summer 2015)


ERISA Litigation Roundup

By Thomas Clark, Jr.

U.S. Supreme Court watch: two decisions from 2015, and two slated for 2016. (Fall 2015)

How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?

By David Witz 

The risk of excessive fee litigation can be mitigated using ERISA’s statute of limitations. Here’s how. (Summer 2015) 

Public Pension Plan Insights 
By Joseph Nichols 

Are all public pension plans in trouble? The answer is not as easy as it seems. (Spring 2015)

By John Michael Maier 

How should plan sponsors and their advisors navigate the post-Dudenhofer world? (Winter 2015)

Courts Redefine ERISA’s Church Plan Exemption 
By Stephen Rosenberg 

The recent burst of litigation over ERISA’s exemption for church plans has amplified the confusion and the uncertainty over when it should apply. What’s next? (Fall 2014) 

Co-fiduciary Liability Under ERISA

By R. Bradford Huss and Nicholas White 

Fiduciaries can’t afford to mind their own business. (Winter 2014)

What’s All the Fuss About Between DOL and Bankruptcy Trustees? 

By Kenneth Kirschenbaum and Steven Sheinwald 

Even though a retirement plan is not the property of a bankruptcy estate, Trustees are nevertheless required to perform the duties of plan administrator. (Summer 2013)  


By Marcia Wagner 

Though the DOL’s final disclosure regulations broadly define the rules, court decisions may add new and different considerations. (Fall 2012)

Are You A Self-Proclaimed or a Recognized Expert? (Part I) 
By David Witz 

Advisors assist most fiduciaries with the responsibility to manage trillions of dollars of other people’s money in the increasingly complex private pension system. As ERISA has evolved, so has the role of the advisor and the need for fiduciaries to retain advisors with subject-matter expertise. (Spring 2012)


Elevator Pitches — and Retaining a Client's Loyalty

By John Iekel

Sometimes you have just a short time to make an impression. (Fall 2015)

The Value of PR and Marketing
By Sean Ciemiewicz 

Digital marketing and public relations strategies offer excellent opportunities for growth. (Summer 2015)

By David Witz 

A comprehensive 408(b)(2) assessment can protect your clients from DOL sanctions or lawsuits. (Fall 2014)


By Sheri Fitts 

A robust brand is built on a foundation of diligent research and clearly communicated purpose, direction, pursuit and details. It’s time to get started. (Winter 2014)

Catch the One That Got Away  

By W. Jeffrey Zobell 

Here’s how to land new clients by investing in financial advisory relationships. (Fall 2013)

10 Steps to Protecting Your Identity and Safeguarding Your Privacy 

By Christine Pilch Mancini 

When it comes to online security, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. Have fun online, enjoy the social aspect, but also be careful what you reveal publicly, and guard your identity. (Spring 2013)

By Christine Pilch Mancini 

Social media can make or break the brand of a professional. Your conduct and presence there put you in a spotlight as never before. (Winter 2013) 


By Barbara Lewis 

Marketing programs don’t just run themselves; they need periodic analysis and adjustment. (Summer 2012)

By Alan Gross 

A great deal of work happens in the name of marketing, but only that which is aligned with strategic business goals has the potential to produce truly meaningful results. (Winter 2012)

Ways to Love Your Leverage
By Barbara Lewis 

How to get the most out of your marketing activities. (Winter 2012)
By Warren Cormier 

Expertise in behavioral finance is an important building block in improving outcomes — and thus in being perceived as a thought leader by clients and prospects. (Fall 2014)

By John Sohn 

The benefits and challenges of looking beyond benchmark-driven investments. (Summer 2014)

Retirement Readiness By Design 
By Deborah Rubin 

How TPAs Help Shape the Future of Retirement in America. (Fall 2013)

Record Keeping
Focus on Teaching First, Then Finance 
By Brian Kallback

Here’s how an understanding of employee learning autonomy can enhance retirement engagement. (Fall 2015)

By John Iekel 

A perfect storm of demographic and technological changes is driving evolution and innovation. (Winter 2015)


DOL’s Conflict of Interest Rule: Where Do We Go From Here?

By David Levine and George Sepsakos

Think the proposed rule won’t affect TPAs and recordkeepers? Think again. (Fall 2015)


Death of a Salesman

By Brian Graff


Will the fiduciary rule making 'selling' impossible? (Fall 2015)


Navigating the IRS Maze

By Mike Bushnell

The IRS' complex website gets hundreds of millions of visits per years. Here's how to make your visit simpler. (Fall 2015)


The Wide Ranging Impact of 408(b)(2)

By John Blossom 

The 408(b)(2) rules have ushered in a new era. Plan sponsors, who now must know what services they receive and review the costs of those services for reasonableness, need help from their retirement plan service providers to understand disclosure and the responsibility it entails. (Summer 2013)


The Participant Disclosure Regulation: Turning “Experts” into Informed Participants

By Stephen Saxon 


DOL guidance has advanced the methods through which plan participants may receive required disclosures and plan information in a world increasingly dominated by electronic communications. (Spring 2013)


Participant Disclosure Regulations: Challenges for Recordkeepers

By Bruce Ashton, Fred Reish and Joshua Waldbeser 


The duty to make the disclosures under the new regulations falls on the plan administrator or sponsor but recordkeepers are the ones preparing the notices to participants and maintaining information on their websites. While this isn’t news, there are challenges that recordkeepers face that may not be well-understood. (Winter 2013) 


ERISA Fiduciary Duty and Other Legal Considerations in Cash Balance Plan Conversions

By Howard Levine and Robert Jensen 


When converting a traditional defined benefit pension plan to a cash balance pension plan, certain legal issues may arise under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. (Fall 2012)


Conducting Business Under Circular 230

By Sheldon Smith 

Rules governing practice before the IRS are prescribed by Treasury Department Circular No. 230 and the IRS’s Statement of Procedural Rules. Circular 230 is a Regulation at 31 CFR, Subtitle A, Part. 10 last published on May 31, 2011 to be effective on August 2, 2011. (Spring 2012) 


In-plan Roth Rollovers

By Susan Diehl 

On November 26, 2010, the IRS published much-needed guidance regarding in-plan Roth rollovers (IRRs) in the form of Notice 2010-84. (Winter 2012)


A Comprehensive Look at Intricate RMD Issues - Part III 
By William C. Grossman 

The third in a series of articles adds new questions and answers on the complex required minimum distribution rules. (Fall 2014)


Valuable Lessons: Working With Offshore Developers 

By Justin Witz 

Ten tips that can improve your probability of success when using offshore software developers. (Summer 2014)

Tech Solutions the Key to TPAs’ Future

By David Witz

Today there is a growing reliance on TPAs to deliver more technology-driven solutions that enhance the ability to win new clients and keep existing ones. (Summer 2016)

Working With Plan Sponsors

Client Communication: The Key to Success

By Karen Smith 


TPAs and outside actuaries share a vested interest in communicating well with plan sponsors — and with each other. (Summer 2015) 

Cash Balance Contributions as a Business Expense: How to Allocate Costs Among Multiple Owners

By John Frisvold 


Understanding what is possible and preparing for the worst will add significant value to your consulting practice and alleviate potential issues before they arise. (Spring 2015)


The Art of Collaboration in Plan Compliance

By Monique Elliott 

Demonstrating a collaborative and service-focused approach goes a long way toward fostering relationship strength and longevity. (Winter 2015)

The Combined Plan Approach 

By Keith Kowalczyk 

A traditional DB plan and a DC plan working in concert is good for the sponsor — and great for participants. (Spring 2014)

Making Participants Out of Employees Via Eligibility

By Noah Buck

Automatic plan features have led to the higher participation and savings rates, but other topics such as plan eligibility can have an impact on participation.  A strategic approach to defining eligibility provisions in 401(k) plans can boost take-up rates. (Summer 2016)