By Linda Koco
A new retirement association has debuted. Called the American Retirement Association, it represents 22,000 members serving retirement plans ranging from traditional defined benefit pension plans to 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans. Home base is Arlington, Va.
Some members are advisors who serve the retirement plan market, most of whom are dual licensed for insurance and securities. But the vast majority of members are consultants and plan administrators, Brian Graff told InsuranceNewsNet. Graff is executive director and CEO of the new organization.
All will be joined under the association’s dual goals of education and advocacy, with the focus on American workers who are saving for retirement through a plan at the workplace, he said.
Although the association name is new, it comprises four associations already well known in retirement plan circles. They are: the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), the ASPPA College of Pension Actuaries (ACOPA), the National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA) and the National Tax-deferred Savings Association (NTSA).
The four founding associations will continue to exist, focusing on issues affecting their core members, said Graff, who is also executive director of ASPPA. However, they will also function as “sister” associations under the American Retirement Association umbrella.
Underlying trends in retirement
Graff said the decision to combine the associations came about several months ago, as the four organizations sought to respond to several trends in the retirement plan sector.
Membership of the combined organizations has more than doubled over the last 10 years, Graff pointed out. This growth reflects the maturation of the retirement plan industry, including the increase in types of available plans, he said. It also tracks with the rising growth in Americans saving for retirement through the workplace.
Along with this maturation has come “an expanding array of retirement professionals,” and the acceptance of the “retirement plan professional” as a distinct discipline, he said.
Previously, professionals serving the plan market “just referred to themselves as, say, the guys who work on 401(k) plans” Graff recalled. But today, many call themselves “retirement plan professionals,” and expectations around that have expanded with regard to knowledge, education, credentials and the like.
In general, the new association and its sister associations will address retirement issues in light of what Graff called the “dynamic and complex legislative and regulatory environment” in which the retirement plan industry now operates.
For example, one member association, NAPA, will introduce a new professional designation just two weeks from now, Graff said. This designation will be the Certified Plan Fiduciary Advisor.
That offering comes at a time when fiduciary issues in retirement plans are much in the news and on the minds of people in the field.
In addition, there is “definitely a movement” for advisors to help plan participants manage their money when their leave their companies. “Organizationally, that will be part of our focus,” Graff said.
In fact, he said, the leadership of the combined association will begin to study that issue next month.
“This is something we need to be thinking about,” Graff said. “Who is the real client? It’s the American worker saving for retirement. So it has to be a retirement plan, not just an asset accumulation plan” that the professionals are working with.
Formed in 1966 as the American Society of Pension Actuaries, the association has focused on institutional retirement plans throughout its years. This structure will continue under the new banner of the American Retirement Association, Graff said, and the association will continue to work closely with other industry groups that have a similar focus.
The association does not deal with the individual retail retirement market.
The organization’s new website is www.usaretirement.org. Its mission is “to educate all retirement plan and benefits professionals, and to create a framework of policy that gives every working American the ability to have a comfortable retirement.”
InsuranceNewsNet Editor-at-Large Linda Koco, MBA, specializes in life insurance, annuities and income planning. Linda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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