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1Q19: 2019: The Year of the Participant

First Quarter 2019
By Fred Reish

It may be time to measure the success of retirement plans in terms of participant outcomes.


As 401(k) plans mature, and as 401(k) participants begin to retire in large numbers, the focus of plan sponsors and providers is shifting from the three Fs to the one P.

The three F’s are: funds, fees, and fiduciary. This refers to the popular use of mutual funds in 401(k) plans, the focus on the fees paid to recordkeepers and the expense ratios of mutual funds, and the fiduciary responsibility for assuring the prudence of the mutual funds and the reasonableness of fees. The three F’s have dominated the 401(k) marketplace for two decades and, more recently, have gravitated to the 403(b) market. However, things are changing.

That’s not to say that the three F’s are going away. They’re not. They are here to stay. However, the one P—the participant—is becoming equally as important.

I predict that 2019 will be the year of the participant for two reasons. The first is a greater focus on participant outcomes, measured by retirement benefits. The second is a broader focus on participants’ well-being, in the form of financial wellness.


Fred Reish is an ERISA attorney whose practice focuses on fiduciary responsibility, retirement income, and plan operational issues. He has been recognized as one of the “legends” of the retirement industry by both PLANADVISER magazine and PLANSPONSOR magazine.

The views expressed here are those of Fred Reish. They should not be construed as investment advice or as the views of Hartford Funds or the employees of Hartford Funds. They are based on available information and are subject to change without notice. The information above is intended as general information and is not intended to provide, nor may it be construed as providing, tax, accounting or legal advice. As with all matters of a tax or legal nature, please consult with your tax or legal counsel for advice. This material and/or its contents are current at the time of writing and may not be reproduced or distributed in whole or in part, for any purpose, without the express written consent of Fred Reish.

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