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OCPS (FL) Reforms Retirement Plans, Adds Vanguard and Fidelity

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1 hour ago, sschullo said:

This guy threated us that if we don't bring meaningful notice, "The IRS could shut down the 403b plan!" 

 

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Wow. This is amazing. Thank you so much!

Ed, I owe you a beer or maybe a keg.

With a BSBA in Finance, I worked in the finance world for ten years before taking a couple years off. I spent part of it traveling, and when I got back decided to get into teaching. I started with OCPS last October, and with the FRS investment plan set up and just getting back into working, I wasn't in a hurry to set up the 403b, but looked a little bit into it. And nothing about it seemed great... My rollover IRA and Roth IRA are both at Vanguard, and I thought, why are there so many options and no apparent good options?

Last week, I was at a training and there were many vendors there, with about five 403b vendors, so I started getting info as I do want to open it up now and start making up for the first half of the year. I was contacted by two of them (one being Security Benefits, who sent me good info, but nothing mentioned the NEA Direct Invest option) and have been trying to get fund and plan information from them. Yesterday, while still at school after working on my room, I started going through what you must have went through in the beginning. I called OPCS Retirement Services and couldn't get much there. Then I started going through the list on their site to try to get information. I felt like a dentist.

I got home and started doing more research. I knew it was going to take a while. Again, I was thinking why are there so many options in the first place? I actually googled "Vanguard 403b" just to make sure they offered them (I am pretty sure I looked last year) and was thinking of trying to go through what you went through. With a finance background, I couldn't believe that it seemed like OCPS was just letting the highest bidders take advantage of their teachers.

On a whim, I googled "how to choose 403b provider orange county" and found this thread from January. As I started reading, I kept opening the links you provided throughout your posts in new tabs and was going back and forth between the thread and your links. I noticed Vanguard on your list and saw that you were working on reform. I finally noticed on one of your pages that you said you were successful in getting OCPS to add Vanguard and Fidelity. I couldn't believe it. Partly because there was no information on the OCPS site about Vanguard and when I called, the lady said it had to be with one of the nine companies on their site. Then I saw that you said it should be added in August. It was now about 8:10pm on 07/31. I could not believe the timing of all of this. I found the TSACG site that included Fidelity and Vanguard, clicked the link, and went from there.

Quote

Thank you. We'll review your application.

We appreciate the time you took to complete this application. You'll receive notification from Vanguard within 3 business days indicating the status of your application and the remaining steps to complete your enrollment in your employer's 403(b) retirement program.

I like to think I'm the first OCPS employee to sign up for this. I read a little more on your site and this site, and I just can't believe that you did all of this legwork, and you're not even an OCPS employee! Like I said, I thought I might actually try to do something like this if those were the only options, but I didn't actually think it would work. I definitely want you to know that your work wasn't unnoticed and I plan on paying it forward. I've already talked to two teachers at my school this morning about opening a 403b with V/F for one (who is also a teacher convert with her prior and personal accounts at Vanguard), and moving her 403b to V for the other.

So, once more - thank you! And let me know when you want to get that beer. Maybe we can discuss reforming the benefits to include a HDHP/HSA option? 🤔

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Hey Chris, I'm really happy you found the site to be helpful.

On 8/1/2018 at 11:25 AM, ChrisOCPS said:

Last week, I was at a training and there were many vendors there

Was this on campus? I don't have a solid understanding of exactly how and where vendors target employees, but every story I've heard so far centered on the principal allowing them onto the campus.

On 8/1/2018 at 11:25 AM, ChrisOCPS said:

I was contacted by two of them (one being Security Benefits, who sent me good info, but nothing mentioned the NEA Direct Invest option) and have been trying to get fund and plan information from them.

It doesn't surprise me that Security Benefit isn't telling you about NEA DirectInvest. I'm inclined to blame everybody at SecurityBenefit for this, but it wouldn't surprise me if the sales reps were never even told that NEA DirectInvest exists because some of them seemed genuinely puzzled when I brought it up. 

If you have or will go through the trouble of documenting the Security Benefit plan(s) in terms of fees and available investments, then I'd love to piggy back off of your research and post it to my site. I've been meaning to get back in touch with them for over a year to do this, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to call them.

On 8/1/2018 at 11:25 AM, ChrisOCPS said:

I called OPCS Retirement Services and couldn't get much there.

Aside from eliminating unethical vendors, this is the primary area I'd like to see reform. People should be able to go to retirement services and get a clear breakdown of each plan that each vendor provides (with an emphasis on the fees, the expected effects of the fees, and the available investments)...similar to what I have on my site.

On 8/1/2018 at 11:25 AM, ChrisOCPS said:

I couldn't believe that it seemed like OCPS was just letting the highest bidders take advantage of their teachers.

The failures are at every level.

Our federal and state politicians have failed us. We've got the unbelievably excellent Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for federal civil service employees and the military. So why can't we expand that program (or develop a  program based on the TSP) to cover the 403b and 457b plans of all public employees regardless of what level of government they're employed?

The folks at the IBC created something called The Model Plan, which was developed by:

  • Florida Education Association (federation of unions of education workers)
  • Florida Association of School Administrators (lobbying group for superintendents, principals, and district level administrators)
  • Florida School Boards Association (another lobbying group for school boards and superintendents),
  • Florida Association of District School Superintendents (another lobbying group for superintendents).
  • ...also with the help of TSA Consulting Group (an unethical Third Party Administrator).

At any rate, I like to think they all had a good laugh with their 1984-style doublespeak naming conventions because it has some of the worst vendors (AXA, PlanMember, etc.) in the nation and they claim the following was the most important selection criterion:

Quote

The supplementary retirement options available through the Model Plan are vetted according to stringent criteria to verify that the authorized providers are offering fair and competitive rates, disclosing all fees and costs, and providing access to high-quality products and services.

 

They try to push this plan onto each district in the state and each vendor uses their "Seal of Approval" as some kind of mark of credibility. This is where our school boards have failed us because they have usually failed to see through this nonsense and the nonsense that non-Model Plan vendors have put forward.

Finally, the principals at each school have failed their direct employees by letting these vendors on campus. In fact, I vividly remember speaking with a principal who literally couldn't care less that their employees were being ripped off and showed absolutely no interest in changing their practice of letting these vendors on campus.

On 8/1/2018 at 11:25 AM, ChrisOCPS said:

you were successful in getting OCPS to add Vanguard and Fidelity

What a happy day that was!

I really don't want to pat myself on the back too hard, but I'm quite proud of this. I think if you acquire a set of skills/knowledge that are either above average or rare then you have a responsibility to help people and this is really the only time I've been able to follow through on that ideal. So it was just really nice to get results.

On 8/1/2018 at 11:25 AM, ChrisOCPS said:

I like to think I'm the first OCPS employee to sign up for this.

ha, you really might be! Did Vanguard make it super easy? If you documented the steps, I can post them on my site to help encourage people to follow in your footsteps.

On 8/1/2018 at 11:25 AM, ChrisOCPS said:

I definitely want you to know that your work wasn't unnoticed and I plan on paying it forward. I've already talked to two teachers at my school this morning about opening a 403b with V/F for one (who is also a teacher convert with her prior and personal accounts at Vanguard), and moving her 403b to V for the other.

I'm really happy to hear that. I'm always ready and willing to help if you want to start pushing forward with a reform effort. I'd love to help raise awareness so teachers stop getting ripped off and if we can assemble enough interested folks then I think we can be successful in pushing for more reform. I've always said this only persists because teachers aren't doing anything about it.

I really appreciated you getting in touch with me. I see the traffic my site gets, but it is always nice to hear that people were helped by it. By the way, I think we have a common friend in Victor, maybe we can get together at some point.

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