Archive for the 'Employee Benefits' Category

Mother – Daughter Public Speaking

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Awwww.¬† How’s that for family togetherness?!

I asked my mom¬†if she’d like to join in the pain of some public speaking in January, and she said yes!

I get asked to do presentations, from time to time, on pseudo retirement- and health-plan related topics.

This time, the scintillating subject is 401(k) retirement plans (and the new Roth 401(k) plans). 

As a financial planner, I suspect she’ll appeal to the audience on a level very different (and more interesting)¬†than¬†my usual legal compliance¬†approach.¬† Thought it might make for a better overall presentation to bring in different perspectives.

At least one other benefits attorney will be joining in the mix, too.

And I’m now on a mission to recruit two additional¬†souls, before early September, so that no one of us will have to speak too long.

(Can you imagine an all-day seminar of 401(k)s??)

¬†Anyway, now that I’m a mom, myself, I have a better appreciation for all the things my mother has done for me.¬† She changed my diapers, fed me, taught me to walk and talk and take care of my cats.¬† She paid me allowance.¬† I borrowed her clothes.¬† We’ve shared hugs and arguments,¬†taken vacations together, talked about the past¬†and planned for the future together.

And now we’ll be 401(k) plan speakers together.¬†¬†

It almost brings a tear to the eye. 

Can You Afford Not To Watch It?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Below is an excerpt from the article Will Your Workers Ever Retire?, by Dallis Salsibury (President and CEO of the Employee Benefits Research Institute), and originally published on Human Resource Executive Online ( 

Looks like I already missed the showing in my area, but I’m going to try to catch it online, where it will be available starting tomorrow:

Television specials sometimes have the power to change public perceptions and to move Congress and presidents to action.

As the Employee Retirement Income Security Act sat stalled by interest-group debates, NBC ran a one-hour special on the pension crisis. Shortly thereafter ERISA became law.

Maybe the same dynamic will begin this week.

For many months, we have been reading of pension terminations and freezes, and of Congress moving slowly towards another “pension reform” bill. The public has been amazingly quiet as Congress, the administration and interest groups spar.

Discussion — or action — may pick up with the airing this week of a PBS special “Can You Afford to Retire?” The subtitle of the broadcast: “Baby Boomers Face Retirement Crisis as Lifetime Pensions Wither and 401(k)s Can’t Keep Up.”

What I Did This Week

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

Can’t think of anything particularly inspiring to blog about just now, but I suppose I have an excuse.¬† Here’s what I’ve been up to¬†lately:¬†

On Monday, I gave a nearly two-hour presentation to some Wisconsin-licensed insurance agents on the finer points of HIPAA health privacy law.¬† It’s hard to know whom to feel sorrier for – me, who has to prepare these things, or them, who have to listen to something that they really don’t grasp at all.¬† This time around, I tried to make the topic more accessible by tying it more into their personal experiences, as health care patients, instead of addressing HIPAA issues that they might encounter in their work so much.¬† And I always try to throw in some cute graphics on the power point slides to keep everyone awake.

On Tuesday, we had a big meeting at work about some major benefit plan changes we need to do, ASAP, for a client.  This comes at a time, of course, when I already have more than one person can really handle.  Luckily, I get to delegate most of this project.  Found out that the Internet access at our house went out Рpart of switching our cable arrangement around because of the change of guard in the tenants, upstairs.  Realized that I have a bad addiction to the Internet. 

Wednesday:¬† Had a conference call, with just me on one end, and two clients on the other, to discuss some revisions needed¬†on their screwed-up, home-cooked¬†(those are¬†legal terms) health plan documents.¬† Found out that some relatives I don’t get to see very often will drive in from several states away for a little visit next month.¬†

Thursday: Attended a lunch presentation hosted by a local benefits group on the topic of the ‘latest benefits developments in DC’ from a Washington insider-type.¬† Decided to¬†do some power networking and invited a guy who sat next to me (and who once interviewed me for a job) to participate in a program my boss and I are¬†trying to line up for the¬†State Bar Association later this summer.¬† Dig it.¬†He said yes.¬†

Also spent two¬†hours Thursday¬†night at the church we belong to (cynics among you: note that I said ‘belong to,’ not ‘attend’) -¬†helping to assist them with revising their Employee Handbook.¬† I got recruited for a little pro bono “HR Committee” work.¬†¬†Missed Emma’s bedtime while I was there.¬†¬†):¬† Came home and proofread Paul’s final paper of the semester.¬†

Friday, I handled another conference call, solo, with two other clients with questions on the¬†health insurance premium differentials permitted under the proposed “bona fide wellness program”¬†regulations.¬† This evening, Paul, Emma, and I, Paul’s parents, my mom, Paul’s¬†brother and¬†his fiance made our second annual outing to the Lobster Boil at Arrowhead High School for the benefit of the many special needs programs the school offers.¬†

While there, three 11-year-old boys visiting from France for the week (Antoine, Thomas, and Maxim) were quite taken with Emma, and made friends with her.  Thomas even kissed her goodbye on the cheek when he left.  Europeans are so smart.  They love babies and give kisses to new acquaintences.  How can you go wrong on either of those?

And we have Internet again.¬† Yay!¬† Now I won’t have to expend my nervous, post-Emma’s-bedtime energy¬†on any other unhealthy compusions.¬†

I’m so swamped with work that I have to be in the office much of the day Saturday.¬†¬†

And then Sunday, will be my first actual, really, official Mother’s Day! I was pregnant last year, but I definitely have more to celebrate this time¬†around.¬†

An all-day nap would be a great gift, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.¬† But a short nap would still be great.¬† And while I’m wishing, I’ll just go ahead and hope for a vacation day, too.¬†¬†

What the H-E-Double Toothpicks !? (as they say in Wisconsin) 

Free Retirement Planning Booklet

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

I guess this day was bound to come sooner or later – the day that my work bled over into my blogging…

I learned today that the EBSA (that’s a branch of the Department of Labor called the Employee Benefits Security Administration)* has published, and will send anyone who wants it, for free, a booklet called “Taking the Mystery Out Of Retirement Planning.”

Promoting awareness of retirement savings options (and the power of compounding money, even on small savings) is a topic near and dear to my heart.

One of my heros in this area is Economist and part-time Actor, Ben Stein (he was the teacher in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off who kept saying “Bueller…”, and he does the “Clear Eyes” commercials). He may be a republican, but he’s a superstar in the area of promoting personal financial literacy. Someone has to do it. Our schools and society in general do a lousy job at preparing anyone on these topics. One of my long-term plans/dreams is to put together a college class (or maybe just a book or collection of articles) on the topic of the history of the safety net, and how the philosophy about society’s obligations to its weaker members has changed and evolved over time, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Another pipedream I have is to promote changes in high school curricula to add more info on basic financial literacy skills. That topic is mostly absolutely ignored now, which is horrible.

Anyway, call up the old EBSA (toll free), at 1.866.444.EBSA (3272), and they’ll send you a copy of this booklet, if you’re interested, especially if you are a “Baby Boomer” and/or within 10 years of retirement. That’s actually the target audience for the booklet. I ordered one (but then I’m a retirement nerd). It will be shipped to me in a couple of days.

*And for those of you still reading, I’ll explain my use of an asterisk after the name of the EBSA, above. You see, until three years ago, the EBSA (Employee Benefit Security Administration), which is the government body responsible for enforcing many employee benefits law violations, was known (and had been known since 1974) as the PWBA (the Pension and Welfare Benefit Adminsitration). In my line of work, and according to the Department of Labor, all employee benefits are either 1. a “Welfare Benefit” (i.e. a health plan or other, non-retirement benefit), or 2. a “Pension Benefit” (a retirement benefit). So maybe the name sounds weird but that’s the law. That is, until George W. Bush came along and changed it. He doesn’t like the word “welfare,” you see. That’s it. No other reason than that. So in February 2003, he changed the name of the PWBA to the EBSA (to eliminate the word “welfare” in the agency’s name). Consquently, every single document or law or website or plan document that referred to the PWBA was suddenly incorrect and had to be updated. Just thought you’d like to know that. We benefits practitioners thought it was strange, indeed. But oh well. Now it’s the EBSA. (If you ask me, it’s strange how often politicians bash lawyers (or, if you’re Dick Cheney, shoot them) and then turn around and give us plenty of work to do, keeping up with all of their law changes – this is only a tiny, easy, example). I shouldn’t really complain. It keeps me employed. But it’s interesting to learn where your tax (and benefit plan dollars) go.