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Philanthropy

Blue Prairie Group’s Chief Investment Officer, Gary Silverman, CFA, gives his opinion on philanthropy, and what you should consider before making charitable donations.  

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The Power of Design for Workplace Retirement Plans

Blue Prairie Group ERISA consultants Carmela Elco and Paul Sommerstad share best practices on improving defined contribution retirement plans by applying proven behavioral finance solutions. The Power of Design for Workplace Retirement Plans – PDF Presentation The Power of Design for Workplace Retirement Plans from Blue Prairie Group on Vimeo.

Webinar

White Paper

The Evolution of 401(k) Advisory Fee Arrangements

ERISA plan fiduciaries are obligated under ERISA to ensure that the total amount of compensation paid to a service provider is reasonable and not excessive. Faced with a decade-long series of lawsuits challenging the “reasonableness” of provider fees, and with greater illumination of expenses afforded by fee disclosure requirements, plan sponsors have aggressively pushed for savings from investment managers and recordkeepers. The upshot of these efforts has been a 40% drop in investment fees for a typical 401k participant and a lowering of administration fees by nearly 45%. The Evolution of 401(k) Advisory Fee Arrangements


Economic Commentary

Investment Perspectives Fourth Quarter 2016

The biggest event of the 4th quarter for us here in the U.S. and probably for those overseas as well, was the surprise election of Donald Trump as President. This is the second (or possibly the third) surprise election in 2016, the first being the Brexit vote that occurred back in June. As with the Brexit vote, the electoral victory of Donald Trump was greeted by a short-lived market swoon which was quickly retraced. Here in the US, the retracement was followed by a jump to new record highs in the markets, in what is now being called “the Trump [ read more ]


Top 12 Biggest Plan Mistakes…and How to Avoid Them

No one likes to make mistakes — especially retirement plan mistakes that can result in costly fines or even litigation. In 2014, the Internal Revenue Service/Department of Labor collected nearly $600 million for plan restorations, penalties and fines. Here’s the DOL break down: 3,928 DOL investigations closed, with Nearly 65 percent resulting in monetary compensation for plans or other corrective actions; and 161 cases referred for litigation. Violations often result from plain oversight (i.e., errors or omissions on the employer’s part) resulting in an audit headache and financial pain. This is why employers must be proactive and vigilant in avoiding [ read more ]

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Chicago Architecture

Spread Some Lovin’

Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to spread some lovin’ to your employees by adding to, or improving upon, a matching contribution formula for your retirement savings plan. Just as with other forms of compensation, an employer match keeps you competitive within your industry, while also helping your employees save more for retirement. Retirement industry experts agree the average worker should save 15 percent of their current annual salary to support future retirement. An employer matching program helps meet this need by: Driving Participation – Employees are more likely to enroll in a retirement savings plan when it includes a [ read more ]


Mortgages

Blue Prairie Group’s Chief Investment Officer, Gary Silverman, CFA, discusses mortgages and the current state of the housing market.  

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Blue Prairie Group Adds Industry Veteran Michael Rom

Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”) is pleased to announce the addition of industry veteran Michael Rom and his firm, PENSION INSIGHT, to its network of retirement consultants. Mr. Rom will lead the San Francisco office of Blue Prairie Group and will maintain an independent business model. Click here to read the full press release.


Investment Perspectives Third Quarter 2016

Has Brexit (the UK’s secession from the European Union) doomed Europe and the UK to future recession? If Donald Trump wins the presidential election, are the markets going to plunge? When will the Federal Reserve raise rates, and when they do, are we headed for another recession? Speaking of recession, aren’t we due for the next one in the United States; it’s been almost nine years? This is just a small sample of the questions we’re all asking and thinking about. Our short answer – no one knows for sure, but let’s take a deeper look and see if we [ read more ]

Economic Commentary

Avoid Common Filing Mistakes that Trigger IRS & DOL Audits

Our experts discuss the employee benefit plan fiduciary’s role as it relates to plan administration, specifically working with your plan auditor and avoiding common plan audit findings. Avoid Common Filing Mistakes that Trigger IRS & DOL Audits – PDF Presentation Employee Benefit Plan Fiduciaries: Avoid Common Filing Mistakes that Trigger IRS & DOL Audits from Blue Prairie Group on Vimeo.

Webinar

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Picking the Right Audit Firm Can Minimize Chances of a Plan Audit

In a recent government study on the quality of audit work performed by independent, qualified public accountants with respect to financial statement audits of employee benefit plans, 39 percent of the audits reviewed contained major deficiencies that would lead to rejection of the filing of Form 5500. While it can be tempting to take the easy route and use your current CPA firm for the 401(k) plan audit, it is important to hire a firm with the background, training and ongoing professional development to conduct these audits. There are many resources available to you that can help you make an [ read more ]


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Credit Scores

Blue Prairie Group’s Chief Investment Officer, Gary Silverman, CFA, talks credit scores, how they should be used, and how they relate to your overall financial situation.  


Carmela Elco Earns Exclusive CBFA Certification

Blue Prairie Group’s Carmela Elco, Managing Director and Senior ERISA Consultant, has recently become a Certified Behavioral Finance Analyst (CBFA). With this certification, Carmela became one of a select few who is qualified to work with plan sponsors to assess the behavioral health of their retirement plans, implement a tailored set of recommendations for improvement, and then measure success overtime using the PlanSuccess System. Carmela is the second consultant from Blue Prairie Group to earn this designation – Paul Sommerstad, ERISA Consultant, received the designation last year. Please click here to read the full press release.

Blue Prarie Group: Carmela Elco photographed in Chicago, IL. June 17, 2014. Photo by Andrew Collings.

Blue Prairie Group Case Study Brochure

Blue Prairie Group is passionate about delivering measurable results that improve the retirement and financial well-being of our clients. We consistently help individuals and plan participants achieve retirement security, while helping organizations reduce the risk associated with sponsoring retirement plans. We thrive on improving our clients complicated financial situations and have a proven track record of making real progress for all stakeholders. Click here to download our Case Study Brochure

Case Study

What Puts the “Well” in Financial Wellness?

A recent public opinion report found that 86% of those 25 and older believe our country faces a retirement crisis and nearly 75% are concerned about their ability to achieve a successful retirement. Clearly more people need assistance when it comes to planning and saving for their financial future. The good news is that financial wellness programs can help. These programs have proven to improve the financial outlook of employees by helping them take charge of their short-term and long-term financial needs. And luckily, company-sponsored financial wellness programs are gaining in popularity. In fact, a new study found 89% of [ read more ]

Chicago Architecture

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Women Rocking Wall Street Podcast – Winning in Sales

Securing the sale of a 401K can take anywhere between one to two years, making the sales process extremely important. Carmela Elco, a Managing Director at Blue Prairie Group, recommends establishing an advocate and build trust with that individual. This is especially important in those competitive situations. By communicating with your advocate, you can ask certain questions including what the committee’s overall concerns are, or what materials others may find beneficial. Also, Carmela recommends understanding the culture of the organization and how they approach their decision making and working with their partners. One way to do this is by reaching [ read more ]


Target Date Funds: Why Plan Sponsor Due Diligence Process Matters

With so many DC plans using target date funds and usually as their QDIA option, the process for selecting the “right” target date suite has become a major plan sponsor concern. Even the DOL has stepped in and issued guidance to sponsors regarding the proper process for selecting and monitoring these funds. But even with this guidance, sponsors often ask, “What constitutes a sound selection process?” “Does it matter?” and “Does the selection process impact investment performance/outcomes?” In response to these trends, Blue Prairie Group (BPG) has developed a comprehensive selection and monitoring due diligence process to assist plan sponsors [ read more ]

White Papers

Economic Commentary First Quarter 2016

Investors experienced a turbulent roller-coaster ride to start 2016, ultimately resulting in a tale of two halves in the first quarter. Rampant volatility across US equity markets carried over from the end of 2015, sending markets down by as much as 10% initially. However, several of the themes that negatively dominated the month of January reversed course by March, resulting in the S&P 500 ending in positive territory as of March 31st. These themes included climbing oil prices, a rebounding energy sector, and a falling value of the U.S. dollar.

Economic Commentary

Webinars

Why Target Date Fund Due Diligence Matters

As target date fund investing has continued to soar in popularity and usage within retirement plans, the need for a rigorous monitoring and selection process has never been more important for plan sponsors. Determining a “best fit” target date strategy for a retirement plan requires a multitude of different considerations, including Plan Sponsor input, participant demographic data, and a thorough analysis of the investment product. Blue Prairie Group’s process for evaluating and selecting a target date strategy seeks to satisfy these different inputs via our proprietary selection tool. By utilizing this selection process, Plan Sponsors can achieve stronger retirement outcomes [ read more ]


Money Market Reform: What it Means for Plan Sponsors

With the upcoming reform to money market fund regulation, many plan sponsors are left wondering how it will effect their retirement plans. There is much concern and confusion around changes with allowing NAVs to “float,” and the enhanced institutional redemption gates and fees. Additionally, sponsors are beginning to think about alternatives to money market funds, and how those funds might compare. Money Market Reform Webinar PDF Money Market Reform: What it Means for Plan Sponsors from Blue Prairie Group on Vimeo.

Webinars

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Top Four Things Every Plan Sponsor Should Know About TDFs

Ten years ago, target date funds (TDFs) were just another investment option in a defined contribution plan. However, since the Pension Protection Act (PPA) solidified TDFs as a qualified default investment alternative (QDIA) in 2006, they have become the default of choice. If you offer employees target date funds in your plan line-up (or are planning to), here are four things you need to know: It’s a fiduciary duty to conduct target date fund due diligence, just as it is with all funds in your line-up. However TDF due diligence is particularly important since so many participants make a TDF [ read more ]


White Papers

Framework for Optimizing Your DC Investment Menu

Defined contribution retirement plan sponsors face many decisions when attempting to maximize plan benefits for their participants, specifically with regards to investment menu design. Blue Prairie Group has long espoused a belief that a good investment menu not only satisfies the preferences of the plan sponsor, but should also be designed with the needs and limitations of the participant base in mind. Framework for Optimizing Your DC Menu Whitepaper


America Saves Week: Take the Pledge!

February 22 – 26, 2016 is America Saves Week (ASW) and the theme this year is “Making Saving Automatic”. ASW is an opportunity for individuals to assess their savings status and take financial action, and for organizations to promote good savings behavior among employees. Employers whose organizations participate in America Saves Week have seen an increase in employee: Wealth. Productivity and focus. Appreciation, retention and stability. You can join the thousands of organizations that participate and encourage your employees (and yourself) to take the America Saves Pledge to save money, reduce debt and build wealth. It’s easy to participate. Signing [ read more ]

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Helping a 403(b) Plan Meet Compliance Standards

Background In 2013, Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”) was retained by a Pennsylvania-based non-profit organization to serve as their 403(b) retirement plan advisor. At the time of the engagement, the CFO of the organization was concerned about meeting the DOL/IRS regulations post-2009 and asked BPG to conduct a full Compliance Review to uncover any and all qualified defects. At the time, the organization’s plan had roughly $25 million in plan assets and 150 participants. Process We reviewed the plan documents, vendor processes and internal HR processes and uncovered a number of problems with the plan: Form 5500 – the short form [ read more ]

Case Study

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Choose Your Plan Auditor Carefully

Are you happy with your plan auditor? Do you know what qualifications to consider when choosing one? Equally important, do you know a recent study by the U.S. Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration found major audit deficiencies occurred 39 percent of the time resulting in possible Form 5500 filling rejections? Yes, in review of over 81,000 audits performed by 7,330 audit firms, the mistakes put “$653 billion and 22.5 million plan participants and beneficiaries at risk,” according to the May 2015 DOL report Assessing the Quality of Employee Benefit Plan Audits. The report looked at six different levels, or [ read more ]


Don’t Forget the Must-Do Communications

Ongoing communication with your retirement plan participants can often help boost contributions and retirement readiness. While much of this type of messaging is optional, there are some instances when participant notifications are a necessity and cannot be overlooked. To keep your plan in compliance, make sure you are aware of all communication requirements. The following are some of the instances requiring participant notification as outlined by the Internal Revenue Service in Retirement Plan Participant Notices (and subsequent pages). Required notices may vary by Plan type (401(k), 403(b), etc.), so become familiar with the notices required for your specific plan. Plan [ read more ]

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Follow Hardship Distribution Rules to Keep Plan Status

While many employees today understand the importance of retirement readiness, some plan participants may seek a 401(k) hardship distribution to accommodate crucial, more immediate needs. If your retirement plan includes this optional provision, make sure it fulfills all necessary U.S. Internal Revenue Service rules and requirements to maintain your qualified plan status. According to the IRS Do’s and Don’ts of Hardship Distributions, a withdrawal can only be made if the following criteria are met: The 401(k) retirement plan permits a hardship distribution. There is an “immediate and heavy financial need” by the employee and, in some cases, by the employee’s [ read more ]


2015 BPG Higher Education Webinar

This webinar is based on survey results of over 250 plan sponsors in higher education. Respondents are administrators, chief financial officers, and have a defined contribution plan. The questionnaire contained questions across several topics related to their retirement plan. Survey was completed in Q2 2015. 2015 BPG Higher Education Webinar PDF 2015 BPG Higher Education Webinar, Retirement Trends in the Higher Education Market from Blue Prairie Group on Vimeo.

Webinar

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What’s the Scoop on Lifetime and Income Plan Participation?

Have you heard about lifetime retirement plans and wondered what they are and how they might impact you as a plan sponsor? A recent Institutional Retirement Income Council (IRIC) report examines the (ERISA) Advisory Council’s recommendations for lifetime plans, explains the concept, and addresses some key questions and concerns. With the shift from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution retirement plans, much of our efforts focus on employee participation, contribution deferral rates, and retirement readiness. However, according to the August 2015 IRIC document, Model Notices and Plan Sponsor Education on Lifetime Plan Participation, employers should now also consider extending to retirees [ read more ]


Retirement? Not Everyone Plans to Stop Working

One in five Americans expect to work forever, or basically until they are unable, according to a recent generational retirement study by Transamerica. This percentage seems incredibly high, yet not entirely unexpected as more people work well into “retirement years” by choice or by necessity. Interestingly, younger and older workers are more likely to report they will work longer for enjoyment reasons, while “workers in their thirties (62 percent), forties (66 percent), and fifties (65 percent) are similarly likely to cite income and benefits-related reasons for working in retirement,” according to the May 2015 Retirement Throughout the Ages: Expectations and [ read more ]

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Just in Case: Understand Plan Audits and Procedures

Few, if any, retirement plan sponsors want to face an audit, yet a successful private retirement system necessitates occasional employer audits by the Internal Revenue Service’s Employee Plans (EP) compliance program. Plan oversight is two-prong, with the IRS covering the “qualified status of 401(k) plans” and the DOL overseeing the “fiduciary standards, reporting and disclosure requirements and other rules that do not affect the qualified status of 401(k) plans,” as explained in the IRS 401(k) Resource Guide – Plan Sponsors – What if You are Audited? The Guide states the primary objective of the IRS’ examination program “is to develop [ read more ]


Improving Financial Wellness Through Employee Education

Background In 2013, Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”) was asked by one of its retained clients – a large, Illinois-based insurance provider – to implement a financial wellness program for its plan participants. The company consists of a mostly white-collar workforce of 215 employees, geographically distributed between two Illinois locations. The goal of the financial wellness program was to engage employees and get them to save more for a secure retirement, using retirement planning software called Retiremap. Process The financial wellness program was implemented in three phases: Phase 1 – “Plan for Your Future” iPad Workshops In Phase 1, groups of [ read more ]

Case Study

Case Study

Restructuring a 401(k) Plan

Background In 2012, Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”) was retained by an Illinois-based hospital to deliver ongoing consulting services to its 401(k) retirement plan. BPG made several recommendations to overhaul the investment lineup, reduce the overall cost of the plan, establish an employee education program, and restructure fiduciary governance. At the time, the hospital’s plan had roughly $16 million in plan assets and 500 participants. Process Strategic Plan Redesign Moved to a safe harbor plan design and added auto enrollment features to increase participation and encourage greater long-term savings. Reconfigured the employer match to encourage higher levels of savings without increasing [ read more ]


Improving the Retirement Future of 7,000 Retail Employees

Background In 2007, Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”) was retained by a large, Wisconsin-based chain of convenience stores to provide ongoing strategic retirement and investment consulting services to the 401(k)/profit sharing plan. As part of its original scope, Blue Prairie Group designed and managed a series of custom target dates funds for the client, who had been recently selected as the new recordkeeper as part of a due diligent search process led by BPG. In 2011, based on a series of recommendations made by BPG, the client made the decision to move the custom target date funds to a stand-alone, custom [ read more ]

Case Study

Blue Prarie Group: Carmela Elco photographed in Chicago, IL. June 17, 2014. Photo by Andrew Collings.

Carmela Elco Named to NAPA’s Top Women Advisors

Chicago, IL – Blue Prairie Group’s Carmela Elco, Managing Director and Senior ERISA Consultant, was named as one of the top Women Advisors in the country by the National Association of Plan Advisors(NAPA). According to NAPA, this list recognizes leaders among the growing number of women “making significant contributions to this field” and who are “in a league of their own.” Carmela was selected frommore than 450 nominees who were voted on by roughly 12,500 industry professionals. “I am so pleased to be named by NAPA as one of the MVP Top Women Advisors in the country. This recognition is [ read more ]


DOL Provides Safe Harbor Annuity Clarification

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor amended The Pension Protection Act of 2006 to establish Safe Harbor Rules for the selection of annuity providers for defined contribution plans. The details were intended to provide fiduciaries with clear “safe harbor conditions for the selection and monitoring of annuity providers and annuity contracts for benefit distributions,” according to the DOL’s recent Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2015-02. However, many employers are still unclear on the rules, which has made some plan providers reluctant to offer lifetime annuity income distributions to their employees. “Confusion or lack of clarity regarding the nature and scope [ read more ]

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Expanding Family Base Impacts Employee Outlook

Today’s “sandwich” generation is feeling the squeeze from both sides (of the bread) as they try to assist both aging parents and children. Nearly a fourth of the U.S. population “have one or two parents age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or have provided financial assistance to a grown child in the preceding 12 months,” according to the Pew Research Center’s May 2015 report: Family Support in Graying Societies. This sandwich phenomenon is impacting the workforce, economy, government programs (particularly, Social Security), and the overall structure of today’s families. For employers, the impact can be [ read more ]


What’s in a Name?

Retirement. The word invokes a variety of responses from people, but quite often the reactions are negative. Little wonder, since dictionaries define retire with negative sentiments such as retreat, recede, go to bed, withdraw, to stop or end something because of age or injury. When people hear the word “retirement”, they most often associate it with “old”, according to Financial Times. In the December 2014 How Do You Feel When You Hear the Word “Retirement”? blog, the company shared results from an informal survey that asked people to consider the word retirement. In addition to old, respondents also mentioned scared, [ read more ]

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Gary Silverman, partner, WM practice leader and our CIO, was named a five-star manager

Gary Silverman, Blue Prairie Group’s Chief Investment Officer and Wealth Management Practice leader was recognized by Chicago Magazine as a Five Star Wealth Manager. The nomination process relied on one of three sources – firm nomination, peer nomination and pre-qualification based on industry standing – to identify award candidates. Each award candidate was evaluated against 10 objective criteria such as client retention rates, client assets administered and a favorable regulatory and complaint history.


“Buying” Retirement

Most people make some type of purchase every day, but how often does anyone consider “buying” retirement? An emphasis on “purchasing” a retirement future is at the crux of the 40-plus-page Savings Fitness: A Guide to Your Money and Your Financial Future booklet by the DOL and Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CRP Board). The guide features colorful graphics, a straightforward yet encouraging and conversational tone, plus useful worksheets to explain the key steps to obtaining retirement readiness. To meet varying needs, the guide can be printed or downloaded, and interactive worksheets are also available online. Without being [ read more ]

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Joint Planning Improves Retirement Readiness and Happiness

Helping employees prepare for retirement is an obvious goal for many plan sponsors, but did you ever consider the role your efforts can play with helping couples improve their financial communication? Money issues are often a source of friction for many couples as people struggle to handle current, near-term and future financial obligations. Yet, a recent Fidelity Investments report finds that “planning for the future goes a long way to achieving greater peace of mind and alignment as a couple.” The 2015 Fidelity Investments Couples Retirement Study looked at retirement expectations and preparedness among 1,051 couples. While some people were [ read more ]


Women Lag in Retirement Readiness

Today, women may equal or outnumber men in the workforce, yet many are woefully less prepared for retirement than their counterparts. Five years ago, women accounted for 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but between 2008 and 2018 that number is expected to hit 51 percent, according to a Women in the Labor Force Department of Labor report (2010). Despite accounting for half of all workers, “women face challenges that often make it more difficult than men to adequately save for retirement,” as outlined in Savings Fitness: A Guide to Your Money and Your Financial Future by the DOL. [ read more ]

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BPG Announces a Partnership with First Bankers Trust Services

BLUE PRAIRIE GROUP ANNOUNCES A PARTNERSHIP WITH FIRST BANKERS TRUST SERVICES Chicago, IL – August 3, 2015 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce a partnership with First Bankers Trust Services (“FBTS”) to provide FBTS’ clients with enhanced investment research expertise, improved client reporting capabilities, and a state-of-the-art technology platform. Leveraging Blue Prairie’s in-house, CFA-led investment research team and proprietary investment databases, First Bankers Trust Services will be rolling out an array of enhanced reporting and due diligence capabilities in the upcoming quarters including: Quarterly Investment Monitoring Reports, an annual Plan Health Report, Stable Value Due [ read more ]


Carmela Elco Named as Delegate to NAPA DC Fly-In Forum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Philadelphia —Carmela Elco of Blue Prairie Group was selected as a delegate to the National Association of Plan Advisors’ (NAPA) DC Fly-In Forum, an exclusive gathering of the nation’s leading retirement plan advisors. As a forum delegate, Carmela met in Washington, D.C. to listen to and brief top congressional leaders about the importance and future of the nation’s workplace retirement plans, and, as advocates for the employers and participants they work with, shared how proposed laws and regulations might impact American workers’ retirement security. Carmela, a member of NAPA, is one of approximately 200 delegates who participated [ read more ]

Blue Prarie Group: Carmela Elco photographed in Chicago, IL. June 17, 2014. Photo by Andrew Collings.

Leadership 500 Excellence Award 2015

BPG Makes Leadership 500 List for Excellence in Staff Development

Chicago, IL – Blue Prairie Group LLC is pleased to announce that it received the Leadership 500 Excellence Award for outstanding achievements in leadership and staff development programming. The company is a 2015 Top 10 Finalist in the Leadership Excellence Awards Program, Small Company category for its high impact, “Staff Development, the Key to Company Growth” program. Leadership 500 Excellence Award winners were announced March 31 at a Lead500 conference in Dallas, keynoted by former President Bill Clinton. The award recipients were judged by a panel of leadership experts and selected based on an application and nomination process, as well [ read more ]


CEFEX - Centre for Fiduciary Excellence

BPG Earns CEFEX Certification for Fiduciary Excellence

Chicago, IL – April 29, 2015 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement, wealth management and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce its recent CEFEX (Centre for Fiduciary Excellence) Certification. BPG joins an elite group of Investment Advisors to successfully complete the independent certification process. The CEFEX standard describes how an Investment Advisor assumes the responsibility for managing a client’s overall investment management process, which includes the selection, monitoring and deselection of investment managers, as well as developing processes to implement investment strategies and fiduciary practices on an ongoing basis. “Through CEFEX’s independent assessment, the certification provides [ read more ]


Reflections in the Mirror: Participants offer their perspectives and perceptions around retirement savings

Experience is an important teacher. Learn findings from the 2014 national study of attitudes and insights from defined contribution plan participants from early career to pre-retirement. Findings include how they feel about what they have done, what they are doing and what they wish they would have done to save and invest for the future. They also offer insights for their fellow participants – and plan sponsors – to move forward. Click here for a PDF version of the webinar. Click here for the presentation and accompanying audio.

Webinar

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BPG Adds Oregon Affiliate to Network of Retirement Plan Consultants

Chicago, IL – April 14, 2015 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce the addition of Rick Harris to its growing network of retirement consultants. Mr. Harris will lead the Salem, Oregon office of Blue Prairie Group as part of BPG’s advisor affiliate program. As practice leader for the higher education and non-profit spaces, he will play a vital part in developing new business in these markets. “I am excited to be associated with Blue Prairie Group,” said Rick Harris. “They are truly a top-tier retirement and investment consulting firm [ read more ]


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BPG Partners with PSCA to Offer an Online ERISA Fiduciary Training Program

Chicago, IL – March 17, 2015 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Plan Sponsor Council of America (“PSCA”) to provide an online ERISA fiduciary training program for their clients. PSCA developed a new online fiduciary training program that provides a certificate of completion for fiduciaries that complete a series of modules and pass corresponding tests. “While we have provided fiduciary education and training for more than a decade, we felt the PSCA program does a nice job of providing essential fiduciary training for plan [ read more ]


BPG Names Constantine Mulligan as Equity Partner and Director of Research

Chicago, IL – March 5, 2015 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement, wealth management and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce the addition of new equity partner and Director of Research, Constantine “Connie” Mulligan. Connie’s career in the institutional and wealth management investment space began over 10 years ago, during which time he has worked extensively with both institutional and wealth management clients. Prior to joining Blue Prairie Group three years ago, Connie worked at RH Financial Group, where he managed client portfolios and conducted investment and asset allocation research. While at Blue Prairie Group, he [ read more ]

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Chicago Architecture

Game On: Offer Competitive Retirement Benefits

As the economy continues to rebound across much of the country, many businesses are once again making employee benefits an important tool in attracting and retaining employees. At the same time, employees hired during the downturn are now requesting changes and improvements to their existing compensation packages. While the interest in quality benefits covers several categories, retirement benefit plans are becoming an increasingly important part of the mix. “Amidst the recovery, the vast majority of employers (89 percent) recognize the value of retirement benefits as an important tool for attracting and retaining employees,” notes a recent report by Catherine Collinson, [ read more ]


Final Four Strategies: Keys to Helping Millennials Save

Men’s and women’s NCAA basketball teams across the nation know it’s time for March Madness, and that means time to step up their game. You can take a similar approach this spring by stepping up your game with Millennials by helping them better prepare for their future retirement. From just out of college themselves to age 35, these workers are important now and in the years ahead. They are your up and coming go-to players and leaders. Indeed, the longevity and prosperity of your business dynasty rests with Millennials. Millennials are smart, tech savvy, and understand the importance of saving [ read more ]

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Nudge Employees Towards Better Retirement Saving Behavior

Inertia is a powerful force in physics and interestingly, in dictating how people save (or don’t save) for retirement. Just as a body at rest tends to stay at rest, employees tend to follow and stick with the retirement plan participation path set before them. If a retirement plan is optional, and enrollment requires effort or inertia, an employee is likely to succumb to inertia and not participate, according to American academics Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein in their book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Nudge focuses on some general behavioral economic premises, but chiefly [ read more ]


Get to the Heart of the Matter

It’s no secret money can be a sensitive subject, particularly when it comes to saving for a monumental event like retirement. Employees have financial and emotional concerns about preparing for the future, and employers are in a unique position to help. Yet a recent survey by American Century found that only two in five employers think their communication programs are effective, and 58 percent agree employees won’t take advantage of support offered to them. This indicates change is needed in the way we approach retirement education—it’s time to get personal! Employers wanting to make a difference in workers’ retirement planning [ read more ]

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Spread Some Lovin’

Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to spread some lovin’ to your employees by adding to, or improving upon, a matching contribution formula for your retirement savings plan. Just as with other forms of compensation, an employer match keeps you competitive within your industry, while also helping your employees save more for retirement. Retirement industry experts agree the average worker should save 15 percent of their current annual salary to support future retirement. An employer matching program helps meet this need by: Driving Participation – Employees are more likely to enroll in a retirement savings plan when it includes a [ read more ]


Top 12 Biggest Plan Mistakes…and How to Avoid Them

No one likes to make mistakes — especially retirement plan mistakes that can result in costly fines or even litigation. In 2014, the Internal Revenue Service/Department of Labor collected nearly $600 million for plan restorations, penalties and fines. Here’s the DOL break down: 3,928 DOL investigations closed, with Nearly 65 percent resulting in monetary compensation for plans or other corrective actions; and 161 cases referred for litigation. Violations often result from plain oversight (i.e., errors or omissions on the employer’s part) resulting in an audit headache and financial pain. This is why employers must be proactive and vigilant in avoiding [ read more ]

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One New Year’s Resolution You Can Help 401(k) Participants Realize

For many people, the start of another new year means the start of another round of resolutions. In addition to the usual vows — better eating habits and increased exercise — retirement plan participants should consider another resolution: ensuring a more secure financial future. While you can’t help much with the food and exercise aspirations of your employees, you can help them save more! Retirement planning is a bit easier when employees have the products, services and tools to help. Here are five savings resources: Bolster Retirement Savings — Most employees readily agree they want to comfortably retire one day, [ read more ]

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ERISA: 40 and Fabulous?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) hit the Big 4-0 last year and prompted many employers and retirement plan industry members to wonder if the law is 40 and fabulous or suffering a mid-life crisis! Clearly, the law enacted by President Gerald Ford on Labor Day in 1974 was necessary to protect employee retirement benefits. Some 10 years earlier, many Americans were shocked and saddened when the Studebaker-Packard Corporation shut down and paid out only a slight percentage of the pensions due its workers. At the onset, ERISA set minimum standards for protecting retirement income plans and shifted the [ read more ]


Top Trends to Watch in 2015

The retirement plan industry is constantly evolving and 2015 brings us new challenges and opportunities to improve our delivery of services to retirement plan participants. From your role as a plan sponsor to our job as an advisor, we can identify and address the latest changes and help your employees better prepare for retirement. While many retirement plan participants now realize Social Security dollars will not be enough to sustain them later in life, they still struggle with how best to create a retirement savings plan that addresses both their current and future needs. Here are a few trends we [ read more ]

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The Language of Generations

Are you speaking the “right” language to your retirement plan participants? Do you know the different financial outlooks among Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers? Studies show the way people tackle saving for retirement is closely tied to generational factors. Your plan participant program needs to speak to each generation, and the varying outlook of those groups. Here’s a quick rundown on the key characteristics of each generation: Millennials or Gen Y – Born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, these adults are digitally oriented, shoulder the heaviest student loan debt but have lower wealth levels, and are waiting [ read more ]


Retirement Plan: Top Ten Terms

As an advisor, we live and breathe the retirement plan world. All too often, we throw around the common acronyms and assume everyone understands the meaning and importance. To get you up to speed and launch the new year right, we’ve mapped out the top ten terms. (Remember, some regulations are more important than others, especially when it comes to fiduciary responsibility.) ERISA – The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 regulates all employee benefit plans and promotes the interests of participants by establishing standards of conduct for plan fiduciaries. ERISA is enforced by the Department of Labor (DOL), [ read more ]

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Most Participants Want a Nudge or Kick in the Pants!

There is a distinct disconnect between what many plan sponsors think employees want and what those participants actually want when it comes to planning and saving for retirement. In fact, a recent American Century survey found 80 percent of workers want at least a “slight nudge” of encouragement to save for retirement, while 15 percent actually want a “kick in the pants.” Yet, a third of employers believe their participants want to be left alone. Most plan participants understand the importance of saving for retirement, according to the survey. However, those same employees agree that more immediate financial concerns, plus [ read more ]


BPG Adds Industry Veterans to Network of Retirement Consultants

Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce the addition of two industry veterans, Jere Cowden and Mark Muto, to its growing network of retirement consultants. Mr. Cowden and Mr. Muto will lead the Pittsburgh office of Blue Prairie Group as part of Blue Prairie Group’s advisor affiliate program. “The partnership with Blue Prairie Group allows us to leverage the scale and efficiencies of a larger, nationally recognized firm, while delivering personalized local consulting services to our clients,” said Jere Cowden. “We are also very confident this partnership will help to propel [ read more ]

Business Teamwork Puzzle Pieces

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Increase 401(k) Knowledge and Participation with Ongoing Communication

You know 401(k) plans are essential to future retirement goals, but do you communicate regularly with your employees about the necessity and the benefits? While industry predictions vary, most studies show the average person needs to save 60 to 80 percent of their pre-retirement income for future retirement. Social Security benefits can cover a portion of this need, but the dollars are not enough. Yet, when the benefits are combined with a 30-year 401(k) plan, employees can potentially meet this goal, according to EBRI (Employee Benefit Research Institute). EBRI’s recent study shows: “participation in a retirement plan mattered: 90 percent [ read more ]


Maximize Our Partnership to Improve Your 401(k) Plan

The retirement plan industry is ever-evolving and keeping up with all the rules and regulations is time-consuming. What’s more, plan options and benefits, plus fiduciary responsibility and administrative oversight require specialized expertise. Yet, plan improvements can impact your bottom line in terms of time and cost savings, participant retirement readiness and overall employee satisfaction. To help you realize the most from your plan, consider maximizing our partnership. A recent survey of 400 retirement plan sponsors shows “professional retirement plan advisors are central to the strategic direction, administration, and overall performance of the retirement plans they manage,” according to EACH Enterprise [ read more ]

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Giving Thanks for Financial Wellness Conversations

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it’s time to give thanks for the new focus on financial wellness and the positive impact the movement is having on the retirement plan marketplace. Few lifestyle trends have ever impacted retirement savings more than this relatively new phenomenon. Financial wellness is a simple concept: instead of focusing on individual money issues, people consider the big financial picture from a mental, spiritual and physical aspect. This holistic approach means creating a new financial attitude that considers satisfaction, financial situations, and actions. The impact of solid financial wellness programs in the workplace is huge. Properly implemented, these [ read more ]


Ten Ways to Evaluate a 401(k) Provider

As a retirement plan sponsor you face a huge burden. You must be responsive to your employees’ savings goals both now and in the future. You must comply with ERISA rules and regulations. You must make smart choices. And, you must keep making those smart choices by periodically evaluating your plan provider. This burden is heavy and can seem overwhelming. However, don’t despair; there are steps you can take to break down and evaluate your retirement plan provider to ensure the service meets your needs, the needs of your employees, and complies with federal rules and requirements. Start your analysis [ read more ]

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Top Four Reasons for Understanding Plan Fees

Today, 401(k) plans are the only savings vehicle for many Americans. As a plan sponsor, you are helping your employees save and prepare for a secure financial future retirement. This is an important job and one that includes several fiduciary responsibilities. One of the most vital is ensuring plan fees and expenses are reasonable and competitive. Depending on your arrangement, you pay a single plan fee to a single provider (bundled arrangement) or you pay separate plan fees to a variety of providers (unbundled arrangement). Typical plan fees fall into three categories: 1. Investment: Money management and other investment related [ read more ]


401(k) Plans: Trick or Treat?

With Halloween fast approaching, now is a good time to ask your employees if they feel “trick” or “treat” best describes their retirement savings. Unfortunately, many people today find they haven’t saved enough to retire and must prolong their working years. This situation may leave some feeling “tricked” by the defined contribution system. However, these sentiments couldn’t be more wrong. Nothing before and nothing since the creation of defined contribution plans has promoted more retirement savings by average Americans than the 401(k). I mean, $4.4 trillion is a heck of a lot of money! The truth is many people would [ read more ]

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BPG Uses Retiremap to Win Industry Award for Financial Wellness

San Francisco, CA – September 24, 2014 – Leading ERISA retirement consulting firm Blue Prairie Group partnered with Retiremap to win a PSCA Signature Award with “High Distinction” for the Financial Wellness program it developed on behalf of a plan sponsor client. The Signature Award was presented at the Plan Sponsor Council of America’s 67th Annual National Conference held in Miami, Florida. A short video overview of the Retiremap program is available here: RetiremapHQ.com/tour Using Retiremap’s Plan For Your Future iPad workshops and working closely with the client, Blue Prairie Group education specialists achieved the following results for its client: [ read more ]


In The News 2014

Time for a Menu Makeover BlackRock.com – August 2014 Plan Sponsor National Conference 2014: DB Plan De-Risking Planadviser.com – June 2014 Wellness Programs Benefit the Plan as Well as Participant Planadviser.com – April 2014 Blue Prairie Group Adds Office Leader Planadviser.com – April 2014


Webinar

Financial Wellness: Calculate the ROI

This webinar will help plan sponsors understand the bottom-line rationale for implementing a financial wellness program and how to calculate the ROI. It will also demystify the calculation process and give you an easy way to assess whether a financial wellness program is right for your company. Click here for the presentation and accompanying audio.


Blue Prarie Group: Carmela Elco photographed in Chicago, IL. June 17, 2014. Photo by Andrew Collings.

BPG Adds A Top 100 Retirement Advisor To Network Of Retirement Plan Consultants

Chicago, IL – April 9, 2014 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce the addition of defined contribution industry veteran, Carmela Elco, to its growing network of affiliated retirement consultants. Ms. Elco will lead the Philadelphia office of Blue Prairie Group and will maintain an independent business model. “I am excited by the opportunity to join a successful ERISA-focused advisory firm like Blue Prairie Group,” said Carmela. “The affiliation with Blue Prairie Group provides my clients with access to a powerful suite of proven tools and resources, while giving me [ read more ]


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BPG Implements Retiremap Using iPads in Onsite Workshops

SAN FRANCISCO, October 1, 2013 — Leading ERISA retirement consulting firm Blue Prairie Group is now using iPads to educate employees and measurably improve retirement readiness with the Retiremap program from Boulevard R.  The new Retiremap Plan For Your Future iPad workshops offer an independent, employer-centric solution to engage employees, while helping plan advisors reach more employees in less time. A short video overview is available here: RetiremapHQ.com/tour “We successfully implemented the Retiremap employee education software with several of our clients and each implementation has worked as intended. The meetings have been well attended and employees love to receive a [ read more ]


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Paul Sommerstad Joins Blue Prairie Group as an ERISA Consultant

Chicago, IL – August 1, 2013 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce the addition of a new ERISA Consultant, Paul Sommerstad. Paul has worked in the retirement consulting space for nearly 10 years. Prior to joining Blue Prairie Group, Paul worked at a Minneapolis-based investment advisory firm as an Account Executive where he managed and consulted over 40 separate 401(k), 403(b) and pension plans. Paul also assisted in investment research and was a non-voting member of the investment committee. Ty Parrish, Blue Prairie Group’s Managing Partner, said, “We are [ read more ]


BPG Names Carla Taylor as Wealth Management Consultant

Chicago, IL – May 15, 2013 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce the addition of a new wealth management consultant, Carla Taylor, CFP®. Ms. Taylor serves as a financial advisor and wealth manager to a select group of individual clients. Ms. Taylor brings relevant experience after working with high net-worth families for three years at the advisory firm Brownson, Rehmus & Foxworth (BRF) and most recently worked at Gresham Partners where she developed long-term relationships with clients as a trusted advisor. Gary Silverman, a managing partner at Blue Prairie [ read more ]

Blue Prarie Group: Carla Taylor photographed in Chicago, IL. June 17, 2014. Photo by Andrew Collings.

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Blue Prairie Group Launches New Plan Health Report and SmartCard™

Chicago, IL – March 20, 2013 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, has launched a comprehensive plan diagnostic report, the BPG Plan Health Report™. The proprietary report brings together a forward looking 24-month strategic planning calendar, information about plan-level participation, average and asset-weighted portfolio costs as well as plan design benchmarking and fee data. At the heart of the report lies the BPG Plan Health SmartCardTM, a powerful yet easy-to-use benchmarking tool focused on measuring the critical dimensions of a successful plan. It’s designed to quantify the overall effectiveness of a participant directed, [ read more ]


Blue Prairie Group Names Ty Parrish as Equity Partner

Chicago, IL – February 14, 2013 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce the addition of new equity partner and Senior ERISA Consultant, Ty Parrish. Ty has worked in the institutional retirement and investment space for nearly 20 years with both plan sponsors and the broader advisor community. Prior to joining Blue Prairie Group, Ty worked at Great-West Life, Sun Trust Institutional Retirement Services and RidgeWorth Investments in marketing, sales, and product development and brings deep experience to Blue Prairie Group in two key areas: ERISA retirement consulting and the [ read more ]

Blue Prarie Group: Ty Parrish photographed in Chicago, IL. June 17, 2014. Photo by Andrew Collings.

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Blue Prairie Group Releases Updated Stable Value Database Executive Summary

Chicago, IL – January 27, 2013 – Blue Prairie Group (“BPG”), a Chicago-based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, released its most recent findings from its stable value database. Every quarter, Blue Prairie Group updates its stable value database based on questionnaire results from 17 leading stable value providers representing over $140 billion of stable value assets. BPG summarizes the findings and releases them in an executive summary format that is then made available on Blue Prairie Group’s website. The information is free and is available about 6 – 8 weeks after the end of each quarter. Please click on [ read more ]


Powerful Portfolio – October 2012

Debbie’s Blog Build your own financial point of view. Away from the Eye of the Storm: Fundamental Guidelines for a Simpler, Less Expensive, yet Powerful PortfolioOctober 30, 2012 by: Debbie Lovett, CFP® My mind keeps leaping to those on the east coast as Hurricane Sandy begins the havoc that will interrupt normalcy over the next few days. May health and safety prevail as the moments unfold from projections to history. May the many things destroyed by the power of the storm be limited to exactly that – things. Thankfully, Sandy has given us some sort of lead time, although I’m [ read more ]

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Webinar

Defined Contribution Best Practices, Part II

In Part II, Matt Gnabasik discussed three best practices to help improve your DC plan: lowering plan fees and costs; simplifying the investment menu; and reducing risk through fiduciary governance. Click here for a PDF version of the webinar. Click here for the presentation and accompanying audio.


Long Standing Debate: Market Data v. Individual Intuition – October 2012

Debbie’s Blog Build your own financial point of view. Long Standing Debate: Market Data v. Individual IntuitionOctober 18, 2012 by: Debbie Lovett, CFP® Whether you are entertained, enlightened or enraged by this political debate season, it gives you the opportunity to measure how much detailed data or general platform preference guides your personal interpretation of the information in front of you. While we would all like to think that it is only the facts that drive our decisions, 1) we as a species have limited ability to separate emotion from the perception of fact (behavioral science is devoted to this [ read more ]

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In The News 2012

Stable Value Industry: Either Boom or BustPensions & Investments – October, 2012 These Funds Give Retirement Savers Stability Market Watch – October, 2012


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Markets, Timing and the Long Term Investor – October 2012

Debbie’s Blog Build your own financial point of view. Markets, Timing and the Long Term Investor October 10, 2012 by: Debbie Lovett, CFP® What makes someone a long term investor? John Maynard Keynes, a premier economist in the 20th century, noted that in the long run, we all are dead. Most definitions of long term investing that I’ve run into are not quite that long. Having just left a makeshift reunion of old camp friends, I’m struck by the large blocks of time that pass by with a blink of an eye. Smaller packages of moments and minutes, hours and [ read more ]


Defined Contribution Best Practices, Part I

In Part I, Matt Gnabasik discussed two best practices to help improve your DC plan: benchmarking your plan and setting strategic goals; and implementing auto plan design features and rethinking other key strategic design points. Click here for a PDF version of the webinar. Click here for the presentation and accompanying audio.

Webinar

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Prairie Post, Blue Prairie Group’s Monthly Articles

Prairie Post is Blue Prairie Group’s electronic newsletter. It sources good (timely and relevant) articles about retirement plans, employee financial education, and wealth management topics. We also use it to keep you posted about upcoming BPG events and updates to our “dynamic” content, such as the BPG Stable Value Database. Starting with the first issue in July 2012, we will post a new issue on a quarterly basis. We hope you enjoy it and find it useful. Prairie Post September 2012 Prairie Post July 2012


Blue Prairie Group Names Deborah Lovett as Wealth Management Consultant

August 3, 2012 – Chicago, IL – Blue Prairie Group is pleased to announce the addition of a new wealth management consultant, Deborah Lovett. Debbie will serve as a portfolio manager and financial advisor to a select group of individual clients. She brings relevant experience after working with high net-worth families for almost two decades at the advisory firm Brownson, Rehmus & Foxworth in Chicago, where she developed long-term relationships with clients as a trusted advisor. Matt Gnabasik, Blue Prairie Group’s Managing Director, said, “We are very excited to bring Debbie on board. She brings a fresh outlook to our [ read more ]

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Webinar

408(b)(2) Disclosures – What’s Next?

In this interactive webinar, Matt Gnabasik, Managing Director of Blue Prairie Group, and Julie Stapel, a Partner with Morgan Lewis, discussed what to do with the information that covered service providers have sent to plan sponsors. Click here for a PDF version of the webinar. Click here for the presentation and accompanying audio.


Blue Prairie Group Named in Top 100 RIA Firms

August 1, 2012 Chicago, IL – Registered Rep Magazine has named Blue Prairie Group as one of the top 100 independent Wealth Manager RIA firms in the country. BPG was ranked number 8 nationally, and second highest in total assets under management for Chicago-based firms. Registered Rep ranked RIA firms not only on total assets under management, but also on their breadth of service offerings in areas such as financial planning, trust and estate counseling and educational expense planning. Registered Rep Magazine Top 100 RIA Firms

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Take Advantage of Fee Disclosures

For plan sponsors, now is the time to take advantage of the fast-approaching world of fee disclosures. Whether you use a broker, consultant or go direct, the soon-to-be-implemented 408(b)(2) fee disclosures provide a real opportunity to get a handle on plan costs as well as to implement several best practices when it comes to fees. Here’s a step-by-step overview of the process I recommend: Ask the recordkeeper what it needs to recordkeep the plan. Also ask how much the current investment options generate in terms of “revenue share.” If the current investments are generating more in revenue sharing than is [ read more ]


Blue Prairie Group’s Stable Value Database, Second Generation

Now that our SV d-base is up and running, we are already working on the next generation. Not only are we adding more providers to the d-base, we are also creating a ranking scheme to evaluate the various products. The idea is simple – create a comprehensive, yet to easy-to understand way for sponsors to evaluate different products. The approach we take is similar to the approach we use for both our Investment and Plan Health Smartcards™.  We look to add our ranking methodology to our SV d-base no later than the Q1 2012 edition. The other internal database project [ read more ]

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The BPG Plan Health Smartcard™

We created a powerful diagnostic tool – the BPG Plan Health Smartcard™. It’s designed to give DC plan sponsors a holisitic overview of their plan expressed as a numerical score.  The methodology is based on two fundamental assumptions: that the purpose of an ERISA-sponsored retirement plan is to maximize the chance that participants will achieve retirement security and that a plan should be run in such a way as to minimize organizational risk and the personal liability associated with being a fiduciary to a plan. The BPG Plan Health Smartcard™ looks at a plan from a total of 6 different [ read more ]


Blue Prairie Group Launches Stable Value Database

December 29, 2011 – Blue Prairie Group (BPG), a leading fee-based retirement and investment consulting firm based in Chicago, just released its Q3 2011 stable value database findings. The executive summary will be refreshed each quarter and is available at no cost on Blue Prairie Group’s website. Q3 2011 BPG Stable Value Database Key Findings 1-year investment performance ranged from 1.3 to 4.5 percent.  Market-to-book ratios generally increased due to falling interest rates, which was a stronger contributor to the ratio than a weaker corporate sector, which depressed bond prices.  Durations ranged from 1.6 to 4.4 years, and have shortened [ read more ]

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Hedging Against Volatility

The S&P 500 was flat for the year but what a ride…The extreme volatility makes me wonder about plan participants close to retirement – how do they hedge against extreme volatility? One strategy is to park assets in their plan’s stable value option where – depending on the stable value product used – it should be generating somewhere between 1.5 – 2.5 percent. The rationale is simple: at least it stays current with inflation and the principal is protected. The problem with this approach is that it: (1) assumes that a participant has access to a stable value option; (2) [ read more ]


Dramatic Fee Savings for Multi-billion Dollar 401(k) Plan

Background One of the nation’s largest and publicly traded waste management providers asked Blue Prairie Group to assist in evaluating the cost structure of their 401(k) plan and help negotiate lower fees with the recordkeeper. At the time, the plan had over $1.7 billion in assets and over 34,000 participants. Results Blue Prairie Group secured significantly lower fees, which resulted in lower overall recordkeeping costs. As a result of careful negotiations, the recordkeeper reduced their annual fees from an effective asset-based fee of 24 bps to a better, flat $37 per participant fee, a 38% effective reduction in annual recordkeeping [ read more ]

Case Study

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Custom Target Date Funds

Background: BPG created and maintained custom target date portfolios for the Client since 2007. The unitized separate accounts were record-kept by the 401(k) record-keeper and the 5 different “sleeves” showed good risk-adjusted performance based on Blue Prairie Group’s due diligence.  However, with advances in the technology there was an opportunity to move the custom target date funds to the Alliance Bernstein platform to allow for greater investment flexibility, lower institutional pricing, and an opportunity to reduce the overall fiduciary risk profile of the company. Result: BPG helped to create a more efficient investment portfolio using the core funds from the [ read more ]


Asset Liability Portfolio Design for Defined Benefit Plan

Challenge: A large Atlanta-based client hired Blue Prairie Group to create an investment portfolio for an underfunded DB plan that would minimize investment volatility yet still allow for investment growth. By doing so, the defined benefit pension plan would be able to avoid large swings in pension funding status and as a result, the client would avoid significant cash contributions to the DB plan. Results: BPG educated the Client on the Liability-Driven Investment (“LDI”) strategy. Working with the Plan’s actuary, Blue Prairie Group determined the “term structure” of the liabilities. Blue Prairie Group then selected investment managers that were appropriate [ read more ]

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Multi-National Savings Plan Using Off-Shore Funds

Challenge: In 2008, a Texas-based, multi-national Client asked BPG to create an investment portfolio using off-shore funds for the company’s defined contribution retirement plan for its international employees. The Client also wanted to include a well-engineered, diversified target date fund solution in the core lineup. Creating this portfolio proved to be particularly challenging given that the universe of off-shore investment options was much smaller than those available to U.S. investors. Results: BPG created a core investment lineup based on a discrete set of investment options that were distinct from a historical risk and returned perspective. The original core lineup included: [ read more ]


Blue Prairie Group Enhances Fiduciary-based Investment Consulting™ Report

October 31, 2011 – Blue Prairie Group, a leading fee-based retirement and investment consulting firm, has made significant enhancements to its Fiduciary-based Investment Consulting™ report designed for its ERISA retirement plan sponsor clients. The changes were the result of client suggestions over the past year since the Fiduciary-based Investment Consulting™ report was first rolled out in early 2010 and is part of Blue Prairie Group’s continuous effort to improve its investment monitoring report by proving key, actionable information for its busy fiduciary clients.  The new report design includes features such as a high-level business plan to track for busy clients [ read more ]

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Welcome !

Welcome to our new website ! We’ve added quite a bit of new content and we’ll be adding to that in the next few weeks. Please bear with us –I’m sure there will be some hiccups as we refine the site. This is my first blog and I’ll be learning as I go along. I’ll be writing about 401(k) best practices, the retirement crisis in this country and proven strategies for helping participants achieve retirement security.  Take care everybody Matt


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EXCESS REVENUE: A New Paradigm for Driving Down Total Plan Costs

Challenge: A Chicago-based telecommunications company asked Blue Prairie Group to assist them in a due diligent search to select a new service provider. The client wanted to reduce total plan costs. Project Approach: Once the bundled, open investment architecture provider was selected, Blue Prairie Group also assisted the client in sifting through all available ERISA appropriate mutual fund options (approximately 12,000) to create a new investment portfolio. Strategy: Blue Prairie Group’s Institutional Retirement and Investment Consultants walked the client through a formal, due diligent investment selection process that was documented each step of the way. Blue Prairie Group came up [ read more ]


Blue Prairie Group on Inc. Magazine 500/5000 List 2nd Time in 3 Years

October 1, 2011- Inc. Magazine recently named Blue Prairie Group as one of the fastest-growing privately held firms in the country. This is the second time Blue Prairie Group has received the award in the last three years. The Inc. 500|5000 list represents the most comprehensive look at the most important segment of the economy—America’s independent entrepreneurs.  Matt Gnabasik, Blue Prairie Group’s Managing Director commented, “We are honored to be recognized by Inc. Magazine again for this significant accomplishment. This designation puts us in elite company along with some of America’s most accomplished businesses. BPG is 100% organically grown — [ read more ]

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Blue Prairie Group Named in Top 50 Independent Wealth Manager RIA Firms

August 1, 2011 Chicago, IL – Registered Rep Magazine has named Blue Prairie Group as one of the top 50 independent Wealth Manager RIA firms in the country. BPG ranked number 27 out of 50 nationally, and third highest in total assets under management for Chicago-based firms. Registered Rep ranked RIA firms not only on total assets under management, but also on their breadth of service offerings in areas such as financial planning, trust and estate counseling and educational expense planning.  Gary Silverman, Blue Prairie Group’s Wealth Management Practice Leader and partner in the firm commented, “We’re pleased to be [ read more ]


2010 In The News Articles

Blue Prairie Group Expands StaffPensions & Investments – November, 2010 Providers Add Alternative Investments to Target Date FundsREITs, Commodities, TIPS are Among the New OptionsInvestment News – October, 2010 10 Things 401(k) Providers Won’t Tell YouSmartMoney Magazine – June, 2010 SSgA Exits Stable Value; $8 Billion May be Up for GrabsPension & Investments – June, 2010 Some 401(k) Plans are Ahead of the Curve on Transparency of FeesInvestment News – April, 2010

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Blue Prairie Group Engages Highly Experienced ERISA Attorney

October 14, 2010 – Chicago, IL – Blue Prairie Group, a Chicago‐based institutional retirement and investment consulting firm, is pleased to announce they have engaged the services of Michael J. Olah, J. D. Mr. Olah has over 20 years of experience in the ERISA/Benefits area, beginning his career practicing ERISA law in Ohio and Virginia. In the past 17 years, Mr. Olah has been employed by Schwab Corporate and Retirement Services, Strong Capital Management and KeyCorp, during which time he consulted on ERISA and client servicing issues, mentoring client servicing teams and managing business risk. Mr. Olah stated, “I couldn’t [ read more ]


Blue Prairie Group Launches Redesigned Fiduciary-based Investment Consulting (TM) Report

Blue Prairie Group Launches Redesigned Fiduciary-based Investment ConsultingTM Report Feb 05, 2010 – Blue Prairie Group, a leading fee-based retirement and investment consulting firm headquartered in Chicago, is launching its redesigned Fiduciary-based Investment ConsultingTM report. This report is the culmination of over a year of internal work including significant feedback from clients. The redesigned report is intended to define a new standard for ERISA investment consulting. Sara Braz, the Blue Prairie Group consultant who served as the internal project manager said, “We see this report as much more than just an aesthetic redesign. For us, it represents a complete retooling [ read more ]

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2009 In The News Articles

Consultants 2009 – Ranked by total worldwide advisory assets Pensions & Investments 2009 Consultant Rankings – November, 2009 BPG and MCHC Partnership Offers Members Human Resource Consulting Services MCHC – October, 2009 Blue Prairie Group Has Been Named To Inc. Magazine’s 5000 List Inc. Magazine – August, 2009 When Acquiring a Company, It’s the People that Make the Difference! MRA’s Alert! Magazine – July, 2009 Retirement 101: Helping Employees Help Themselves Talent Management Magazine – May, 2009


Blue Prairie Group Named on Inc. 500/5000 List

August 17, 2009, Chicago, IL – Blue Prairie Group was just named one of the fastest- growing privately held firms in the country by Inc. Magazine. We ranked number 1,037 out of 5,000 nationally, and number 42 in the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet metro region. The Inc. 500|5000 companies are ranked according to percentage revenue growth from 2005 through 2008 during which time BPG experienced almost 300% growth. BPG’s growth rate outperformed the 102.4% median growth rate for companies included in Inc. Magazine’s ranking this year and the 24.01% industry benchmark for Business Products & Services. Matt Gnabasik, Blue Prairie Group’s Founder and [ read more ]

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2008 In The News Articles

Consultants 2008-Ranked by total worldwide advisory assets Consultants 2008-Ranked by U.S. institutional, tax-exempt advisory assets Consultants 2008-Ranked by total number of searches Blue Prairie Group’s profile Pensions & Investments 2008 Consultant Rankings – November 2008 “Could unbundling save you a bundle?” DC Focus Magazine from Barclays Global Investors – September, 2008 “Focus on Excellence – A Successful Plan Conversion” PSCA Defined Contribution Insights Magazine – September/October, 2008 “Rising inflation outstrips annual increase in Midwest wages” Medill Reports, Chicago – April, 2008 “Execs Profit by Querying 401(k) Costs, Plans Can Save Millions” Workforce Management – April, 2008 “Execs asking hard questions [ read more ]


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2006 In The News Articles

“10 Things Your 401(k) Provider Won’t Tell You” Smart money – November, 2006 “401(k) Lawsuits May Pose Legal Risk for Advisers” Investment News – November, 2006 “Drawing a Bead on Cost“ CFO Magazine – May, 2006 “Mail Bag – Letters to the Editor” BARRON’S – May, 2006 “Congress is Split on 401(k) Advisers” The Wall Street Journal – January, 2006