Bolton Retirement Planning Services

We have some of the best actuarial minds in the country, and we realize that workforce demographics, volatility of retirement assets, new laws, regulations, and litigation, along with accounting requirements, add to the challenge of maintaining a successful pension and retirement program. Our high consultant to client ratio allows us to design and/or manage a pension and retirement program that keeps your plans on point with your goals.

Areas of Retirement Expertise

Retirement programs are a key component of today’s workforce strategy in terms of attracting and mitigating the loss of top talent at all levels of your organization. Changes in workforce demographics, the volatility of retirement assets, new laws and regulations, continued litigation, and new accounting requirements add to the challenge of maintaining a successful retirement plan strategy.

Bolton can help you design and manage a pension and retirement program that keeps your organizational plans on point with your goals and the needs of your workforce. Our consultants bring a fresh perspective, along with years of industry experience, to help sponsors benchmark the effectiveness of their current programs and identify opportunities to better align their retirement plans with participants and expectations… or determine if it’s time for a complete refresh. We listen and seek to understand your goals and constraints so we can help develop plan designs that are tailored to your organization.

Whether you’re looking for something “tried and true” or more cutting edge, Bolton consultants work with you to design retirement plans that fit within your total rewards strategy. We can also help you implement and communicate program changes, while developing the appropriate administrative procedures to ensure your plans remain compliant with all applicable regulatory requirements. Finally, we help you define what success looks like to you and evaluate program changes to determine if they measure up to your definition of success.

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Annual actuarial valuation services are the heart of what we do at Bolton and we have many of the best actuarial minds in the nation supporting our clients. We bring a demonstrated history of thought leadership and a reputation for honest, thorough analysis and accurate work.

The quality and experience of our staff and the direct involvement in the daily processing of tasks by senior credentialed actuaries ensure that we deliver services of the very highest quality. Quality control and regulatory compliance drive our annual valuation work. Our multi-level review process creates accountability for our staff and ensures we deliver accurate results on time, every time.

Our core actuarial services include:

  • Annual actuarial valuations to determine required contributions, expense recognition, and financial statement disclosures (in accordance with FASB, GASB and IASB requirements) for pension and OPEB plans;
  • Annual funded status (AFTAP) and zone status certifications for single employer and multiemployer pension plans;
  • Cash flow and funded status forecasting to assist sponsors with long-term planning and financial management of their retirement plans;
  • Evaluation of actual plan experience relative to actuarial assumptions to provide an optimal basis for valuations and projections;
  • Preparation and electronic filing of the annual Form 5500 series (including associated schedules) and PBGC Comprehensive Premium Filing;
  • Preparation of the Annual Funding Notice for ERISA plans; and
  • Updates on legislative, regulatory and judicial developments, as well as trends in benefit design and funding.
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Plan sponsors and administrators require support throughout the year with the administrative and compliance requirements for their plan. Our actuaries and retirement consultants work with plan sponsors, offering co-sourcing support to ensure all deadlines are met and plan participants get timely information.

Our annual retirement plan administrative services include:

  • Benefit calculations and participant-ready benefit election packages;
  • Participant benefit statements;
  • Audit support for review of both the plan and sponsor’s financial statements;
  • Electronic filing of Form 5500, Form 8955-SSA and PBGC premium filings;
  • Nondiscrimination, coverage and top-heavy testing; and
  • Preparation of Annual Funding Notices or Summary Annual Report to plan participants.

We also offer additional, ad hoc support to help sponsors maintain a smooth-running and compliant retirement program, such as:

  • Participant database design and administration;
  • Drafting or review of Periodic plan amendments, Summary Plan Descriptions, and Summaries of Material Modification;
  • Drafting of, or review of existing, plan administration procedures;
  • Review and qualification of domestic relations orders;
  • Plan compliance audits and design of correction procedures to remedy plan defects;
  • Printing and distribution of required participant communications;
  • Processing returned benefit election packages and responding to participant inquiries; and
  • Design and maintenance of an online plan administration portal to support on-demand participant benefit calculations and projections.
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Actuarial audits are frequently used as a risk management tool by larger plans and retirement systems. Obtaining an independent, second opinion on the accuracy and appropriateness of the system’s current actuarial models ensures any potential weaknesses or deficiencies in the current actuarial modeling are identified and remediated to promote the financial stability of the system.

Bolton has extensive forensic experience with adversely affected pension plans in both the public and private sector, so we know what has caused problems. We apply this knowledge to craft an actuarial audit process that focuses on three main steps:

  • Collect and validate all source information,
  • Produce independent models to verify computational and procedural accuracy, and
  • Provide feedback on any weaknesses in the model and recommendations for improvement.

We work with the plan sponsor to identify appropriate tolerances for matching the actuary’s work to ensure we are working to mutually agreed-upon validation targets and deliver a comprehensive written report that summarizes our findings, recommendations and potential remediation steps for any outstanding issues identified during the audit.

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The trend toward “mark to market” funding and expensing has led many plan sponsors to explore alternative strategies to minimize the volatility inherent in these cost requirements. Since the size of a plan’s liabilities are primarily sensitive to changes in interest rates, and not equity performance, many firms are exploring ways to adjust the plan’s investment strategy to more closely match changes in the plan’s assets to changes in the plan’s liabilities.

Asset/liability modeling is a valuable risk management tool for pension plan sponsors in establishing a plan’s investment policy, whether addressing risk for an ongoing plan or one that has been frozen.

We prepare different versions of asset/liability modeling based on the client’s needs and objectives – which are typically either long-term risk reduction or achieving long-term expected investment returns while minimizing the associated risk.  We evaluate asset allocation, liabilities, costs and funded status using stochastic methods and an array of economic models to illustrate the likely range of outcomes for each combination.

From these studies, we work with both the plan sponsor and the investment managers to develop strategies to best match the assets and liabilities and minimize the plan sponsor’s risk consistent with their goals for the financial management of the pension plan.

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Retirement plans are subject to a myriad of risks, including investment, longevity, operational and governance risks. Ensuring a pension plan is well managed and operated mitigates the risk of it becoming an unwelcome distraction or worse. It also supports long-term sustainability for plans that are not on a path to plan termination and ensures strategies aren’t derailed for sponsors where termination is the end-game.

As actuaries, managing risk is our specialty.

Effective risk management starts with identifying and quantifying risk, then defining a risk budget for the plan that fits within the plan sponsor’s overall risk management framework for their organization. With these in hand, we work with plan sponsors to decide whether each potential risk is one they should eliminate, accept, reduce, or transfer, and identify alternatives for achieving the desired level of risk within this context.

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Whether in support of plan termination or as an interim step to reduce risk for an ongoing plan, our consultants work with each plan sponsor to develop a risk transfer strategy that aligns with the sponsor’s financial and risk management goals. We work collaboratively with the plan’s investment managers to develop strategies to best match the assets and liabilities and minimize the plan sponsor’s risk while preparing for a transaction.

For strategies that involve annuitization through insurance contracts, we work with insurers to solicit bids and support the data and plan administration transfer.

Plan termination is the ultimate form of risk transfer for a plan sponsor, relieving the sponsor of the administrative burden and financial risk associated with maintaining an ongoing plan. To help define funding goals that support eventual plan termination, a plan sponsor should have:

  • An established timeline for plan termination, subject to market changes to the extent plan investments have not been de-risked,
  • A defined trigger point to initiate the termination process, and
  • A strategy to deal with the accounting impact.

For those sponsors on a path to termination we closely monitor the liabilities as compared to plan assets, to identify changing market conditions that may cause the plan termination trigger to be reached and to prevent the plan from becoming overfunded, resulting in negative (excise) tax consequences to the plan sponsor. The plan termination process is complex and involves strict deadlines for regulatory filings and participant communications. From start to finish, Bolton consultants guide the plan sponsor through the termination process. We also offer additional administrative support for those plan sponsors who require some extra help managing the increased volume of participant correspondence and other communications.

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Defined contribution plans have taken their place as the primary retirement vehicle offered by many private sector employers. They also serve a key role providing supplemental retirement benefits to public sector employees, where defined benefit plans remain dominant.

Our consultants support plan sponsors with strategic plan design to address the needs of plan participants and goals of the plan sponsor, provide plan administration and regulatory compliance support, investment consulting, searches, and plan governance and fiduciary services. We also help sponsors stay abreast of emerging issues, legislative and regulatory developments, and industry trends.

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At Bolton, our investment consulting group offers an array of fiduciary services to assist plan sponsors, protect them as fiduciaries, and improve results for their employees as they prepare for retirement.

Our experienced consultants can provide a variety of services to support the needs of plan fiduciaries, including:

  • Plan review and fee benchmarking studies
  • Plan design and compliance assistance
  • Investment policy review and development
  • Manager evaluation and searches
  • Performance measurement and modeling
  • Third-party administrator (TPA) searches
  • Target date/QDIA suitability studies
  • Employee communications
  • Fiduciary training
  • Annuity placements
  • Asset allocation studies
  • Asset-liability studies

Visit Bolton Investment for further insights on how we can assist plan sponsors and administrators with their retirement plan investment advisory needs.

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Frequently changing regulatory requirements and increased regulatory oversight of plan administrative activities make it more important than ever for plan fiduciaries to establish a thoughtful, sound governance process that adapts to evolving conditions.

Prudent plan governance requires:

  • Proper training of plan fiduciaries so they understand their responsibilities and duties;
  • Creating an administrative structure that limits fiduciary risk and liability;
  • Documenting administrative processes and decisions;
  • Establishing a sound decision-making framework for addressing change;
  • Defining an internal control process for tasks supporting plan administration and financial management of the plan; and
  • Creating a due-diligence process for selecting and monitoring service providers.

Fiduciaries rely on their advisors to help them with these needs, and Bolton consultants provide that support to our clients as an integral part of our consulting engagements. Everything we do for our clients is done with an eye on regulatory compliance and supporting the plan fiduciaries in fulfilling their responsibilities.

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In the world of corporate mergers and acquisitions, it’s easy for retirement programs to get lost in the shuffle. For the employees affected by the transaction, however, knowing how their benefits are affected is often at the forefront of their minds.

Successfully transitioning employees into new or consolidated retirement plans takes careful planning that starts before the transaction closes. Our consultants help plan sponsors with the due diligence review of their retirement programs by:

  • Evaluating various alternatives (plan merger, termination, or leaving the plan with the seller) and recommending a course of action consistent with buyer’s or seller’s goals;
  • Estimating the value of benefit obligations or other liabilities that could affect the cost of the transaction;
  • Determining how acquired plans fit within the current benefit strategy and align with existing retirement plan design;
  • Reviewing acquired plans for regulatory compliance issues and their potential effect on compliance requirements for existing plans;
  • Evaluating investment lineups and mapping of acquired plan fund options to those in existing plans upon merger; and
  • Preparing required regulatory filings to consolidate retirement programs following acquisition.
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