As employees nearing retirement grapple with how to make their 401(k) funds last, some companies are stepping up with a new way to help: providing access to independent financial advisers.
"It's important that employees have someone they can rely on to help them with retirement because just providing a 401(k) isn't going far enough to help employees retire," said Andrew Lehner, the Neenah, Wis.-based director of HR Services at Plexus Corp., a global electronic components manufacturer with more than 18,000 employees around the world.
The manufacturer tapped Francis Investment Counsel LLC, an independent investment adviser, to provide its U.S. employees with one-on-one counseling sessions. The services are available to all, for whatever they might need on retirement matters, ranging from how to make the most of their 401(k) investments to strategies for how to draw down their accounts.
In addition to providing on-site counseling at all U.S. Plexus facilities once a year, Francis Investment Counsel advisers are available throughout the year to advise employees via video or teleconference.
"We rarely have any extra open sessions for the face-to-face meetings," Mr. Lehner said. By his estimates, Francis advisers — almost all certified financial planners — held some 300 in-person or telephone one-on-one advisory sessions with Plexus employees in the past year.
The independence of the advisers was a key factor in the 2012 decision to hire the firm to help the nearly 4,400 participants in Plexus' $352 million 401(k) plan, Mr. Lehner said. It was important the advisers were free of incentives to sell or promote any one institution's products, he said.
"It's not independent if you have a provider and you're also in their funds. They have an interest in where people are investing, whereas a true independent adviser doesn't necessarily have an interest in any one investment. Their main goal is to get people invested in the correct investments at the lowest cost,” Mr. Lehner said.