top of page
  • Writer's pictureRebecca Hourihan

Why You Should Avoid Being the Monday Morning 401(k) Quarterback

Sure, it’s easy to walk into a prospect meeting, look at the plan playback information, and talk about the underperformance of the investments, plan design fumbles, and retirement replacement ratio spreads. However, one key information point we don’t know is – what is the current relationship of the advisor? Is he or she a long-time player or a recent walk-on?

Interestingly, in a recent survey, it was found that over half (52%) of the interviewed plan sponsors have been working with their advisor for over 4 years. That’s not rookie status. It means your competition has an existing relationship – so, all we know is that you’ve been given an opportunity to pick up the ball and show the retirement plan committee what you can do.


Let’s start off with a few short distance passes to learn more about the plan.

  • How did you select your plan provider?

  • How long have you been with them?

  • What do you like about the current retirement plan? Dislike?


After gaining some yards and learning basic information, it’s time to start pivoting the conversation to uncover the plan sponsors goals. In the 2018 Fidelity Plan Sponsor Attitudes survey, they found the three top concerns of plan sponsors to be:

  1. Is the plan effectively preparing my employees for retirement financially?

  2. Is the plan helping retain top workers?

  3. Are plan-related business costs being reduced?

Maybe these are some of the thoughts on your prospects’ minds – so, ask them! Ask what is the goal of their workplace retirement plan? Then let them coach you on what they want from their retirement plan advisor.

For example, the first question should be, “Do you feel the plan is effectively preparing your employees for retirement?” This concern could lead to a conversation about assessing the employees’ financial wellness. Many of the recordkeepers today have great partnerships that can help.

What about retaining top talent? This sounds like an opportunity to partner with a TPA to evaluate the plan design. Have there been corrective distributions? Testing failures? Is there an opportunity to add profit sharing, New Comparability, or maybe a Cash Balance plan to carve out the top talent and keep them on the team?

Then there are plan costs. Of course, all business owners want to keep costs reasonable. Thankfully, there are insider reports that can benchmark current costs and compare them to similar plans, companies, industries, headcount, and other head-to-head statistics. For example, Fiduciary Benchmarks comes to mind.


After you’ve learned the direction and goals of the retirement plan, it’s time to start moving. This means advancing the ball.

To do this, think about who your team mates are? How are you working together towards the win?

  • DCIO and recordkeeper wholesaler partners

  • TPAs

  • Internal retirement plan consulting team

What about your retirement plan advisor equipment? It’s about style, baby. How do you look when you’re rushing down the field? Are your tools and technology subscriptions demonstrating your specialized skills?

  • Investment screening and analysis tools

  • Fee benchmarking reports

  • RFP provider reports

  • Fiduciary vaults

  • Financial wellness programs

Just because you’ve made it pro and wear the jersey, doesn’t mean a touchdown is guaranteed in every game. You might need more to advance the ball into the endzone.


Andddddd the crowd goes wild! Break out that touchdown dance – you’ve won the plan! Great work demonstrating why and how you can help the plan sponsor improve their company’s retirement plan.

By asking-short distance questions in the beginning to uncover the plan sponsor’s major concerns, you’ll get them talking about their goals. Then, by working with your trusted partners to help advance the ball down the field, you show teamsmanship. Also, the reports prepared and presented confirm that you are a trained professional in the retirement plan industry – and not Johnny Football. Congratulations and good work. Keep it up and hope to read your story on next months, Top Advisor By Participant Outcomes (TAPO).

Trading Jerseys

One last thing to mention is that, hey, sometimes we trade jerseys. If you’re a retirement plan advisor, not feeling the team spirit where you are today, and maybe during a prospect meeting you are impressed, it could be a good time to contact your recruiter and discuss your free agent status. Because at the end of the day, we all want to be on the winning team.

Thanks for reading and Happy Marketing! Go football!

About 401(k) Marketing

We believe the retirement plan industry can do better. Our clients are the best professional retirement plan advisors and TPAs in the business. They care deeply about saving America’s retirement future. We are proud to share their voices through industry writings, professionally-designed marketing materials (including websites), and expert content collateral. We lend support by promoting businesses through ongoing awareness campaigns.

About Retirement Plan Marketing

Retirement Plan Marketing is a product of 401(k) Marketing and is an ongoing turnkey marketing solution for retirement plan advisors. It is an easy-to-follow, consistent marketing program designed to get you noticed in your community and generate new retirement plan sales. When you deliver relevant plan sponsor content, you add value to your conversations and can work your way up to become known as the “go-to” retirement plan advisory office.

bottom of page