One of the most important things that an individual can have is their health. Like they always say, all you need is your health. While your health is certainly dependent on genetics and living a fit life, sometimes the difference between living a long life and dying prematurely is how you listen to what your body tells you. If you notice a sudden departure from your body’s normal function or feeling, you may have a symptom. If you take care of these symptoms and seek medical attention, you may avoid or beat a serious condition or disease. I am sure we all know people who survived or died prematurely from diseases because of how they handled symptoms that they experienced. For example, Colon cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer if detected early, same with prostate and breast cancer. I had a colleague who had symptoms for years and neglected going to a doctor. His neglect allowed this Colon cancer to spread to his liver and he was dead within 3 months of diagnosis. Early detection can be the key to surviving a deadly disease or not.
The same can be said about retirement plans. Early detection of symptoms can avoid a greater harm to plan participants and especially plan sponsors and fiduciaries. The problem is that most plan sponsors are unaware of their responsibilities and their potential liability as plan sponsors. Plan sponsors don’t know that they are ultimately liable as fiduciaries for their errors as well as the errors and transgressions of the providers they select. The road to fiduciary liability hell can be paved with good intentions. The problem is that while there are symptoms as to when a retirement plan is ill, plan sponsors are often unaware of what symptoms to look for. So this article is intended to serve as a wakeup call as to what symptoms to look for to determine whether their retirement plan might be “ill” and should contact a retirement plan “doctor” (plan consultant or ERISA attorney).