A different kind of window-shopping: Retirement plans

When shopping for a dress or a new pair of pants, people normally look at several different choices and try on a few to see how they fit, or at least eyeball the tags. It is the same with financial decisions, and Carter County officially began that process Monday morning.

Carter County’s Financial Management Committee spoke with two different investment agencies to discuss different options for county employees’ 457 retirement plans, a continuation of discussions from last month’s meeting.

Among them were John Hancock Investments and the locally-based Edward Jones Investments.

Thomas Davis, representing Edward Jones and presenting a retirement plan with OneAmerica Financial, said the county is experiencing a “simple” problem.

“They are not getting enough of a return on their investments,” Davis said.

Davis said the percentage growth of investments under the county’s current plan is lower than annual inflation, meaning employees are effectively losing money even with the interest they earn.

While the committee agreed something needed to be done to encourage more employees to sign up for these programs, they said they were also concerned about overwhelming employees with too many options.

“If you overwhelm them with too many options, it will force people to opt out entirely,” Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said.

The committee also discussed talking with Nationwide, the company they currently work with, about the silence regarding this negative return and seeing if they can salvage their current relationship. Deputy Director Michael Kennedy said he did not think to invite them to this month’s meeting, saying his bad experiences with the company in the past and the county’s recent troubles with the retirement plans led him to not include Nationwide in the meeting.

The committee decided to extend the invitation to Nationwide for February’s meeting.

Davis said Carter County has a responsibility to sort out this challenge.

“You are not meeting your fiduciary liability,” Davis said. “I would recommend you find a solution sooner and not later.”

Other items on the meeting’s agenda included cutting the Courthouse and Jail Management Fund #112, a fund consisting of roughly $60,000. Its funds will go wherever the Budget Committee decides it is best needed.

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