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A defined contribution plan that permits employees to deduct a portion of their salary from their paycheck and contribute to an account before taxation. Employers may also make contributions to a participant's account, called a company match. Federal (and sometimes state) taxes on contributions and investment earnings are "deferred" (i.e. postponed) until the participant takes money out of the plan in a distribution (typically at retirement).
401(k) Plan with Pre-Tax or Roth Deferrals
An employer sponsored, tax-advantage retirement plan that permits employees to either deduct a portion of their salary and contribute to an account before taxation OR contribute after-tax Roth income. The pre-tax contrubitions made by the particpiant and the employer match are both taxed at the current income tax rate when withdrawn, whereas the Roth contributions are tax-free if withdrawn after age 59 1/2 and the five year rule is met.
Also known as a tax sheltered annuity (TSA), a 403(b) provides a tax shelter for 501(c)(3) tax exempt employers (which include public schools). Employers qualifying for a 403(b) plan may defer taxes on contributions to certain annuity contracts or custodial accounts.
Retirement benefits earned to date by an employee, which will be expressed in a 401(k) plan in terms of the amount in the employee's account.
Actual Deferral Percentage (ADP)
An anti-discrimination test that compares the amount deferred by highly compensated employees to the deferrals of non-highly compensated employees.
A person other than a plan participant (such as a spouse, former spouse, child, etc.) who, under a domestic relations order (see qualified domestic relations order), has a right to receive all or some of a participant's pension benefits.
Federal law requires that all plans with more than 100 participants be audited by an independent auditor. It is also common to refer to a DOL or IRS examination of a plan as a plan audit.
A document filed annually (Form 5500) with the IRS that reports pension plan information for a particular year, including such items as participation, funding, and administration.
A contract providing retirement income at regular intervals. See also qualified joint and survivor annuity.
**Fixed Annuities are insurance products and are designed for long-term retirement income. Annuity guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the insurance company. Surrender charges may apply if money is withdrawn before the end of the surrender period. All withdrawals of tax-deferred earnings are subject to current income tax. Annuities generally contain fees and charges which include, but are not limited to, sales and surrender charges. Additionally, if purchased within a qualified plan, an annuity will provide no further tax deferral features. The contract, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than the amount used to purchase the annuity. Fixed annuities are contracts and you should read and understand the contract before making a purchasing decision. Mutual funds are sold by prospectus only. Before investing, investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of a mutual fund. The fund prospectus provides this and other important information. Please contact your representative or the Company to obtain a prospectus. Please read the prospectus carefully before investing or sending money. An investment in a money market fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although the Fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the Fund.**
An employee's division of money between different types of investment choices. An example of asset allocation would be 70 percent stocks and 30 percent bonds.
Automatic Deferral Default Percentage
The percentage of pay that is taken pre-tax and put into a plan when an employee is enrolled via an automatic enrollment feature. The typical automatic deferral default percentage is 3 percent of pay. Participants can generally choose to defer an amount other than the default percentage.
The practice of enrolling all eligible employees in a plan and beginning participant deferrals without requiring the employees to submit a request to participate. Plan design specifies how these automatic deferrals will be invested. Employees who do not want to make contributions must actively file a request to be excluded from the plan. Participants can generally change the amount of pay that is deferred and how it is invested.
A person, persons or trust designated to receive the plan benefits of a participant in the event of the participant's death.
Also called a lock-down, transitional period, or quiet period. This refers to the time when plan participants cannot access their accounts. These periods can be caused by a number of events, including a change in plan record keepers, a change in plan trustees, a change to daily valuation from monthly valuation, or a company merger or acquisition.
In this plan employees may choose from a "menu" of two or more benefits.
Cash or Deferred Arrangement (CODA)
A type of profit sharing or stock bonus plan in which employees may defer current pre-tax compensation.
Cash or Deferred Election
A participant request to defer compensation, on a pre-tax basis, to a CODA Plan.
Cash Profit Sharing Plan
A type of profit sharing plan in which the company makes contributions directly to employees in cash or stock. (This type of profit sharing plan is not a qualified retirement plan.)
The distribution of assets from a plan to a participant prior to retirement, typically occurring when a participant has a balance under $5,000 and leaves a company without requesting to have their assets rolled over into an IRA or into a new employer's plan. Cash-outs are subject to federal withholding tax, and are subject to the ten percent early withdrawal federal income tax penalty if taken before age 59½.
A vesting schedule that gives an employee 100 percent ownership of company contributions after a specified number of years of service. (See also vesting).
Businesses are under common control when one entity owns at least 80 percent of the stock, profit, or capital interest in the other organization, or when the same five or fewer people own a controlling interest in each entity.
The process of changing from one service provider to another.
A pre-tax contribution set aside from an employee's paycheck.
Deferred Profit Sharing Plan
A type of qualified retirement plan in which the company makes contributions to individual participant accounts.
Defined Benefit Plan
A retirement plan in which the sponsoring company provides a certain guaranteed benefit to participants based on a pre-determined formula.
Defined Contribution Plan
An employer-sponsored plan in which contributions are made to individual participant accounts, and the final benefit consists solely of assets (including investment returns) that have accumulated in these individual accounts. Depending on the type of defined contribution plan, contributions may be made either by the company, the participant, or both.
Department of Labor (DOL)
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) deals with issues related to the American workforce – including topics concerning pension and benefit plans. Through its branch agency the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, the DOL is responsible for administering the provisions of Title I of ERISA, which regulates proper administration of plans.
Document issued by the IRS formally recognizing that the plan meets the qualifications for tax-advantaged treatment.
Plan sponsors must provide access to certain types of information for participants, including summary plan descriptions, summary of material modifications, and summary annual reports.
Tax qualified retirement plans must be administered in compliance with several regulations requiring numerical measurements. Typically, the process of determining whether the plan is in compliance is collectively called discrimination testing.
Any payout made from a retirement plan. See also lump sum distribution and annuity.
Early Withdrawal Penalty
There is a 10 percent early withdrawal federal income tax penalty for withdrawal of assets from a qualified retirement plan prior to age 59½. This 10 percent early withdrawal federal income tax penalty is in addition to regular federal and state tax (if applicable).
Conditions that must be met in order to participate in a plan, such as age or length of service requirements.
Employees who meet the requirements for participation in an employer-sponsored plan.
Employee stock ownership plan (ESOP)
A qualified, defined-contribution plan in which plan assets are invested primarily or exclusively in the securities of the sponsoring employer.
Plan sponsors are required by law to design and administer their plans in accordance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Among its statutes, ERISA calls for proper plan reporting and disclosure to participants.
ERISA Rights Statement
ERISA requires that this document, explaining participant and beneficiary rights, be included within a summary plan description (SPD).
The amount that a participant's required minimum distribution (after age 72) surpasses the amount distributed. Excess accumulations are subject to a 50% IRS penalty tax.
Excess Aggregate Contributions
After-tax participant contributions or matching employer contributions that cause a plan to fail the 401(m) actual contribution percentage (ACP) non-discrimination test.
Excess Benefit Plan
A plan, or part of a plan, maintained to provide benefits that exceed IRS Code 415 limits on contributions and benefits.
Pre-tax participant contributions that cause a plan to fail the 401(k) actual deferral percentage (ADP) non-discrimination test.
The employees that may be excluded from the group being tested during 401(k) nondiscrimination testing. The following are excludable employees: certain ex-employees; certain airline pilots; non-resident aliens with no US source of income; employees who do not meet minimum age and length of service requirements; and, employees whose retirement benefits are covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Exclusive Benefit Rule
A rule under ERISA that says the assets in an employee account may be used for the exclusive benefit of the employee and his/her beneficiaries.
The percentage of a fund's assets that are used to pay its annual expenses.
Facts and Circumstances Test
The test determining whether financial need exists for a 401(k) hardship withdrawal.
The Federal law that taxes employee wages for Social Security and other programs.
Protects participants in the event a fiduciary or other responsible person steals or mishandles plan assets.
A person with the discretionary authority to make decisions regarding a plan's assets or important administrative matters. Fiduciaries are required under ERISA to make decisions based solely on the best interests of plan participants.
Insurance that protects plan fiduciaries in the event that they are found liable for a breach of fiduciary responsibility.
Plan assets surrendered by participants upon termination of employment before being fully vested in the plan. Forfeitures may be distributed to the other participants in the plan or used to offset employer contribution.
A form sent to the recipient of a plan distribution and filed with the IRS listing the amount of the distribution.
A form which all qualified retirement plans (excluding SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs) must file annually with the IRS.
Graduated or Graded Vesting
A vesting schedule in which the employee earns the right to employer contributions gradually over a period of years, for example 25 percent ownership each year for four years. (See also vesting).
Guaranteed Investment Contracts (GICs)*
Accounts that are invested in interest-bearing contracts purchase directly from banks, insurance companies, or mutual funds, which guarantee to maintain the value of the principle and all accumulated interest. Also called stable value funds, these accounts do not go down in value.
*Guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the underlying insurance company. They are not guaranteed by the FDIC or any other government agency.
Hardship or In-Service Distribution
When a participant withdraws plan funds prior to retirement, at the employer's option. Eligibility for such distributions exists when financial hardship is present. These distributions are taxable as early distributions and are subject to a ten percent early withdrawal federal income tax penalty if the participant is under age 59½.
Highly Compensated Employees (HCEs)
An employee who received more than $130,000 in compensation in 2021 (indexed annually) or is a 5 percent owner in the company.
Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
Personal retirement vehicles in which a person can make annual tax deductible contributions. These accounts must meet IRS Code 408 requirements, but are created and funded at the discretion of the employee. They are not employer sponsored plans.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
This branch of the U.S. Treasury Department is responsible for administering the requirements of qualified pension plans and other retirement vehicles. The IRS also worked with the DOL and the PWBC to develop Form 5500, and is now responsible for monitoring the data submitted annually on Form 5500 reports.
A qualified defined contribution plan permitting self-employed individuals to contribute a portion of their earnings pre-tax to an individual account.
A plan arrangement that includes both 401(k) contributions and an ESOP.
An individual employed by a leasing organization that provides contract services for the company for the period of more than one year.
The distribution at retirement of a participant's entire account balance within one calendar year due to retirement, death or disability.
A contribution made by the company to the account of the participant in ratio to contributions made by the participant.
A change in the terms of the plan that may affect plan participants, or other changes in a summary plan document (SPD).
Median Market Cap
An indicator of the size of companies in which a fund invests.
Money Market Fund
A mutual fund seeking to generate income for participants through investments in short-term securities.
A type of defined contribution plan in which the employer's contributions are determined by a specific formula, usually as a percentage of pay. Contributions are not dependent on company profits.
A pension plan to which more than one employer contributes, and which is maintained according to collective bargaining agreements.
An account with a broad range of investment options, each of which is diversified, reducing the risk to the participant.
The plan document must name one or more fiduciaries, giving them the authority to control and manage the operation of the plan. The named fiduciary must also be identified as a fiduciary by a procedure specified in the plan document.
An employer contribution that cannot be withdrawn or paid to the employee in cash. This contribution is neither a matching contribution nor an elective contribution.
Non-Highly Compensated Employees (NHCEs)
Employees who are not highly compensated. Generally, they are employees who earned less than $130,000 in 2021 (indexed for inflation). See highly compensated employees.
Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plan
A plan subject to tax, in which the assets of certain employees (usually highly compensated employees) are deferred. These funds may be reached by an employer's creditors.
IRS rules that prohibit the plan or plan sponsor from giving disproportionately larger benefits to highly compensated employees (HCEs). Specific nondiscrimination testing must be done to determine if plans have broken this rule and are top heavy.
Person who has an account in the plan and any beneficiaries who may be eligible to receive an account balance.
Participant Directed Account
A plan that allows participants to select their own investment options.
Those who are a party-in-interest to a plan include: the employer; the directors, officers, employees or owners of the employer; any employee organization whose members are plan participants; plan fiduciaries; and plan service providers.
Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (PWBA)
This branch of the Department of Labor protects the pensions, health plans, and other employee benefits of American workers. The PWBA enforces Title I of ERISA, which contains rules for reporting and disclosure, vesting, participation, funding, and fiduciary conduct.
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)
A federal agency established by Title IV of ERISA for the insurance of defined benefit pension plans. The PBGC provides payment of pension benefits if a plan terminates and is unable to cover all required benefits.
The individual, group or corporation named in the plan document as responsible for day-to-day operations. The plan sponsor is generally the plan administrator if no other entity is named.
The parameters under which a retirement plan will be operated must be outlined in the plan document. This document must be given to employees upon request.
Loan from a participant's accumulated plan assets, not to exceed 50 percent of the balance or $50,000, whiver is less, less the amount of any outstanding loans. This is an optional plan feature.
The entity responsible for establishing and maintaining the plan.
The calendar, policy or fiscal year for which plan records are maintained.
This occurs when, upon termination of employment, an employee transfers pension funds from one employer's plan to another without penalty.
Pre-Retirement Survivor Rights
The right of a surviving beneficiary to receive benefits if vested plan participant dies before retirement.
The share price of a stock divided by its net worth, or book value, per share.
Price/Earnings (PE) Ratio
The ratio of a stock's current price to its earnings per share over the past year. The PE ratio of a fund is the weighted average of the PE ratios of the stocks it holds.
Profit Sharing Plan
Company-sponsored plan funded only by company contributions. Company contributions may be determined by a fixed formula related to the employer's profits, or may be at the discretion of the board of directors.
Activities regarding treatment of plan assets by fiduciaries that are prohibited by ERISA. This includes transactions with a party-in-interest, including, sale, exchange, lease, or loan of plan securities or other properties.
Prudent Man Rule
ERISA fiduciary law that requires all fiduciaries to conduct the business of the plan with prudence and care. Any fiduciary violating this law is liable to the plan and its participants for all losses.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
A judgment, decree or order that creates or recognizes an alternate payee's (such as former spouse, child, etc.) right to receive all or a portion of a participant's retirement plan benefits.
Qualified Joint and Survivor Annuity (QJSA)
An annuity with payments continuing to the surviving spouse after the participant's death, equal to at least 50 percent of the participant's benefit.
Any plan that qualifies for favorable tax treatment by meeting the requirements of section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code and by following applicable regulations. Includes 401(k) and deferred profit sharing plans.
The action of moving plan assets from one qualified plan to another or to an IRA within 60 days of distributions, while retaining the tax benefits of a qualified plan.
Roth Individual Retirement Account (Roth IRA)
Personal retirement vehicles in which a person can make annual after-tax contributions. The principal contributions are tax free when withdrawn and capital gains are tax-free if withdrawn/used after the participant reaches age 59 1/2 and the five year rule is met. These accounts must meet IRS Code 408 requirements, but are created and funded at the discretion of the employee. They are not employer sponsored plans.
Safe Harbor Rules
Provisions that exempt certain individuals or kinds of companies from one or more regulations.
Also known as payroll deduction. When a plan participant arranges to have pre-tax contributions made directly from their paycheck, it is arranged through salary deduction.
Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees
A type of defined contribution plan for employers with 100 or fewer employees in which the employer matches employee deferrals up to 3 percent of compensation or provides non-elective contributions up to 2 percent of compensation. These contributions are immediately and 100 percent vested, and they are the only employer contribution to the plan. SIMPLE plans may be structured as individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or as 401(k) plans.
A form that must be filed by all plans subject to ERISA Section 203 minimum vesting requirements. The schedule, which is attached to Form 5500, provides data on participants who separated from service with a vested benefit but were not paid their benefits.
A company that provides any type of service to the plan, including managing assets, record keeping, providing plan education, and administering the plan.
See Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees.
Simplified employee-pension plan (SEP)
A defined contribution plan in which employers make contributions to individual employee accounts (similar to IRAs). Employees may also make pre-tax contributions to these accounts. As of January, 1997 no new SEP plans may be formed.
Stock Bonus Plan
A defined contribution plan in which company contributions are distributable in the form of company stock.
Summary Annual Report
A report that companies must file annually on the financial status of the plan. The summary annual report must be automatically provided to participants every year.
Summary of Material Modifications
A document that must be distributed to plan participants summarizing any material modifications made to a plan.
Summary Plan Description (SPD)
A document describing the features of an employer-sponsored plan. The primary purpose of the SPD is to disclose the features of the plan to current and potential plan participants. ERISA requires that certain information be contained in the SPD, including participant rights under ERISA, claims procedures and funding arrangements.
A type of defined contribution plan in which company contributions are based on an actuarial valuation designed to provide a target benefit to each participant upon retirement. The plan does not guarantee that such benefit will be paid; its only obligation is to pay whatever benefit can be provided by the amount in the participant's account. It is a hybrid of a money-purchase plan and a defined-benefit plan.
Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA)
See 403(b) plan.
Top Heavy Plan
A plan in which 60 percent of account balances (both vested and non-vested) are held by certain highly compensated employees.
The individual, bank or trust company having fiduciary responsibility for holding plan assets.
Turnover Rate (of a fund)
A measure of the trading activity in a mutual fund.
The participants' ownership right to company contributions.
The structure for determining participants' ownership right to company contributions (see matching contributions). In a plan with immediate vesting, participants own all company contributions as soon as they are deposited into individual accounts. In cliff vesting, company contributions will be fully owned (i.e., vested) only after a specific amount of time, and employees leaving before the allotted time are not entitled to any company contributions (with certain exceptions for retirees). In plans with graduated or graded vesting, vesting occurs in specified increments.