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Betty Meredith, CFA, CFP®, CRC®, Director of Education, and Research, InFRE

Betty Meredith, CFA, CFP®, CRC®, Director of Education, and Research, InFRE

By Betty Meredith, CFA®, CFP®, CRC®

In this ever changing environment – particularly legislative and regulatory changes – there are many challenges that state and local government employers face. This results in an increased need for education and training on the design and administration of primary and supplemental retirement benefits. At the same time, employer budgets are tightening and it is more difficult to find funding for training programs. To address this, InFRE has tailored its Retirement Plan Administrator Series programs for the public sector audience to provide a menu of choices to better meet your needs.

Even though we are no longer conferring the Certified Retirement Administrator (CRA) certification, we have been updating, refocusing and repurposing the curriculum over the past 18 months to better serve the public sector retirement plan administrator audience in print, live classroom and eventually elearning training formats.

Here’s why we made changes and what was done:

  1. The previous version of the materials targeted both private and public sector retirement administrator audiences. Because there are already several certification programs for private sector administrators, InFRE determined that the course material should be re-focused primarily on the public sector audience, specifically public sector 457 professionals, with private sector information being ancillary.
  2. We have had requests from retirement systems which need resources to train plan administration staff and other individuals in need of fundamental education, not certification.
  3. As previously designed, the four courses required frequent updates to address changes in federal laws and regulations. These changes result in considerable cost and effort to update. As a result, InFRE has decided to reorganize the text to provide basic education on the course topics and include only general information on laws and regulations. The material that requires updates based on changes in federal laws and regulatory guidance will be removed from the basic course material and, instead, dealt with in separate updates that will be prepared by InFRE on a periodic basis.

The four-part series is among the most in-depth, approachable available that describes the differences in design and administration between public and private sector retirement plans. The series guides are available at a savings as the Bundle of Retirement Plan Administrator Training Seriesor individually per below:

1. Fundamentals of Plan Design

This first course in the retirement plan administrator education series provides an overview of the different types of employer-sponsored retirement plans most commonly used in the U.S. today, with an emphasis on those in the public sector. As a retirement plan administrator, board or commit member responsible for a retirement programs, you should understand the basic features of the various plans and how they can, or cannot, meet the needs of employers and employees.

You will learn the history of retirement plans and the Social Security system, as well as background on how pensions were first used and how they have changed. Common trends within the retirement industry and how they can impact plan administration are also covered.

2. Fundamentals of Investing

This second course in the series is designed for individuals who have a responsibility for a public sector retirement plan – either a defined benefit pension, generally considered the primary retirement plan for state and local government employees, or a defined contribution plan, most often considered a supplemental plan. These include Section 457(b), 403(b) and 401(k) plans.

You will learn various topics that relate to decisions regarding investments within these types of retirement plans. All individuals with an oversight or decision-making role with the plan need to have a basic understanding of investment principles and concepts as well as strategies for selecting and monitoring the plan’s investments. This is particularly important for plan fiduciaries including administrators, board or committee members and other individuals who may have a fiduciary responsibility to the public sector retirement plan.

3. Fundamentals of Operations

The administrative and operational responsibilities of a retirement plan can be extremely difficult and challenging for the retirement professional. In this course you will receive a thorough explanation of the specific compliance issues relating to plan administration and operations and best practice models to help you efficiently manage and oversee a successful retirement plan.

The course also examines the administrator’s responsibilities, including dealing with governing and advisory boards, fiduciary responsibilities, communication responsibilities, and dealing with other professionals such as actuaries, accountants and attorneys.

Changes to plan design (terminations, mergers, conversions, etc.) are examined, as well as special events such as early retirement windows, special elections, etc. Roth 401(k) designs are also explored as well as the new rules pertaining to nonqualified deferred compensation plans under Section 409A. The course also includes important tools for monitoring and evaluating the retirement plan and contractors that are providing outsourced services.

4. Fundamentals of Compliance and Ethics

This course is designed for individuals who have a responsibility for a public sector retirement plan – either a defined benefit pension, generally considered a primary retirement plan for state and local government employees, or a defined contribution plan, most often considered a supplemental plan. These include Section 457(b), 403(b) and 401(k) plans.

This course provides a basic understanding of what is required to ensure the retirement plan is in compliance with federal tax laws and the ethics that should be adhered to necessary for all parties responsible for the program and, in particular, those who have a fiduciary role, such as plan administrators, board or committee members and other fiduciaries.

Besides print and soon-to-be ebook formats, each course can be delivered live in either a four or seven hour format, depending on if time practicing case studies is desired.

We’re happy to give you a quote for bringing these courses, as well as the live professional development versions that complement InFRE’s Certified Retirement Counselor (CRC®) certification study materials for the public sector. The next time you’re planning a team offsite or need more in-depth training for new hires or new/existing board members or trustees, consider sponsoring one of these live plan administration courses designed specifically for public sector DB and DC retirement plans. We’re confident we’ll have something that meets your learning objectives!