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Press Release: Castle Rock Investment Company Announces Support of SaveOurRetirement.com

January 26th, 2015

(CASTLE ROCK, COLORADO JANUARY 26, 2015) Castle Rock Investment Company has announced its support of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) effort to more broadly define fiduciaries as “those persons who render investment advice to plans and IRAs for a fee.” By amending the regulatory definition of the term “fiduciary,” the DOL will require all investment advice to adhere to the fiduciary standard set forth under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.   “The DOL’s proposal would ensure that all financial professionals have a legal obligation to put the interests of their customers first when offering retirement advice,” said Michele Suriano, President of Castle Rock Investment Company.  “We must close this ‘Retirement Advice Loophole’ to better protect Americans from conflicts of interest that result in their retirement accounts being drained by hidden fees and second-rate investment options.”

About the “Save Our Retirement” Initiative
Supporters of the broader fiduciary standard, including AARP and other consumer groups, recently launched the “Save Our Retirement” initiative. The campaign, which includes a website with a petition for supporters to sign, urges visitors to “join the campaign to get important updates as the Department of Labor tries to strengthen rules that apply to retirement investing.”

About Castle Rock Investment Company
Castle Rock Investment Company is an entirely woman-owned, SEC registered investment adviser currently serving plan sponsors in Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, and Texas. Castle Rock focuses on workplace retirement plans to help plan sponsors meet their fiduciary obligations and increase retirement readiness for their employees. The firm puts its clients’ interest first by maintaining its independence from compromised business practices.

For more information, please contact Castle Rock Investment Company at (303) 719-7523, or via e-mail at info@castlerockinvesting.com.

Read Official Press Release


Risk Management: Employee Retirement Plans

January 23rd, 2015

Risk ManagementCastle Rock jumps through hoops to be among the best investment advisors. Not every investment advisor goes through the same rigorous training because these hoops are not legally required. We do not think that making best practices a legal requirement will diminish our status as one of the best firms around, but we do think that selecting an investment advisor should be less risky for Plan Sponsors.

You are supposed to be careful of sales pitches that avoid using the term “fiduciary” but stress “education” instead, because those are not interchangeable services. The difference between these services would be like exchanging accounting for bookkeeping services, or medicine with surgery, or heads with tails in a coin toss. Providing education does not negate a need for a fiduciary; rather, a fiduciary investment advisor should be around for cases where education does not meet the plan’s needs, and an expert opinion is necessary.

How confident are we that Castle Rock is the place to turn? We are the best retirement investment advisor around. You can check our About Us section to be sure, or better yet Contact Us.

Our qualifications exceed all of these expectations, but you may want to check to see if your own advisor is able to eliminate some of the risks to you as a plan sponsor[1]:

  1. At least 50% of assets under management in qualified retirement plans (ours are 99%);
  2. Has an Accredited Investment Fiduciary™ or similar designation;
  3. SEC Registered Investment Advisor (RIA);
  4. Make sure your advisor has been working in the industry for at least a decade;
  5. Get a fee agreement that clearly states how the fees will be charged; and
  6. Make sure that fiduciary status is in writing.

To show your support for conflict-free advice in all retirement plans, please sign the petition here at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/414/401/760/tell-washington-to-stand-up-to-wall-street/

 

Michele L. Suriano, Accredited Investment Fiduciary™, is president of Castle Rock Investment Company, a woman-owned SEC registered investment advisory firm serving qualified retirement plans. www.CastleRockInvesting.com


What’s Going On?

January 22nd, 2015
Source: Bloomberg

Source: Bloomberg

A fiduciary duty, the obligation to uphold the clients’ interest above all else, is Phyllis Borzi’s long sought and tunneled for goal that we at Castle Rock uphold and agree whole-heartedly with. Together, our standards are the highest in the retirement industry. She says that, like in the movie Groundhog Day, bad policies keep being relived over and over. We want to stop the origin of the problem: the poor incentive structure.

Her aim is to make incentives to advisors as straightforward as possible in retirement plans so that the resulting fees will not surprise retirees and leave them with less than they planned.

When investment advisors do not sign up to be fiduciaries to the plans they advise, it leads to corruption and changes the fee structures of these plans so that the retirees no longer have the same security after 65 (typical retirement age). Liability to the Plan Sponsor also changes, and the integrity of the investment advisor themselves is challenged as well.

One example of how the Plan Sponsors are hung out to dry is the John Hancock case, where unreasonable fees were not seen as criminal because of this legal loophole.

Sign your support for reform here at SaveOurRetirement.com!

 

Michele L. Suriano, Accredited Investment Fiduciary™, is president of Castle Rock Investment Company, a woman-owned SEC registered investment advisory firm serving qualified retirement plans. www.CastleRockInvesting.com


Are you In or Out?

January 21st, 2015

What sense does it make to pay for investment advice that comes from someone who is putting his or her interests before yours?

The Department of Labor, through Phyllis Borzi, is fighting to make sure that a loophole allowing conflicted advice to retirement plans is closed. As of last week, an online petition was started by consumer groups and retirement industry giants, including AARP, at http://saveourretirement.com/. The petition is to tell Washington to stand up to Wall Street and close the loophole.

We at Castle Rock are proud to endorse this petition.

The low returns that people often find in their 401(k) or IRA accounts are due to fees that are either hidden or “bundled” so that you need hire a detective to figure out who is getting paid and how much. Please do your homework when you look for an advisor for your retirement plan. In America, today, folks can pay for advice that is in conflict with their best interests and there is no law against it.

We are proud to put our clients’ interest first and maintain our independence from compromised business practices. If you support our work and want conflict-free investment advice to be the law of the land, please sign the petition at http://saveourretirement.com/take-action.html.

Are you in or out? Will you join the fight for qualified retirement investment advice?

 

Michele L. Suriano, Accredited Investment Fiduciary™, is president of Castle Rock Investment Company, a woman-owned SEC registered investment advisory firm serving qualified retirement plans. www.CastleRockInvesting.com


In-plan Roth Rollovers: the latest topic

December 3rd, 2014

Get out your red pen, folks: serious revisions to the rollover options for your plan. Today we’re looking at how you will need to revise your Plan Document in order to offer in-plan Roth rollovers and a few highlights.

In-plan Roth rollovers of otherwise non-distributable amounts are treated as eligible rollovers, meaning that no withholding applies. Since this amount is not distributable, no part of the rollover may be withheld for voluntary withholding. An employee making an in-plan Roth rollover may need to increase his or her withholding or make estimated tax payments to avoid an underpayment penalty. Concerning the rollover process, here is a critical section to know from IRS Notice 2014-74:

 

If you do a rollover to a designated Roth account in the Plan

You cannot roll over a distribution to a designated Roth account in another employer’s plan. However, you can roll the distribution over into a designated Roth account in the distributing Plan. If you roll over a payment from the Plan to a designated Roth account in the Plan, the amount of the payment rolled over (reduced by any after-tax amounts directly rolled over) will be taxed. However, the 10% additional tax on early distributions will not apply (unless you take the amount rolled over out of the designated Roth account within the 5-year period that begins on January 1 of the year of the rollover).

If you roll over the payment to a designated Roth account in the Plan, later payments from the designated Roth account that are qualified distributions will not be taxed (including earnings after the rollover)…

Remember, if you’re making revisions to your Plan Document, then Best Practices direct you to get an ERISA attorney, and make sure you’re fulfilling your fiduciary responsibility.

 

Katherine Brown is a Research Associate at Castle Rock Investment Company with a Master’s degree in Global Finance, Trade, and Economic Integration from the University of Denver. She can be reached at Katherine@castlerockinvesting.com.


How May I Help You?

November 13th, 2014

Castle Rock is dedicated to making retirement transition easy for you. One of the best ways to do that is to be with you in retirement transition and throughout the different stages of your retirement. We are excited to announce that we will soon offer a Retirement Transition Service to ease the retirement process for individuals, and to provide our clients with the piece of mind that all participants are taken care of.

Because we want you to have a part in how we build this new service, please reach out to me at Katherine@CastleRockInvesting.com with your comments and goals for retirement. We will try to incorporate as much as we can into the best service for you.

Stay tuned as we introduce the details of this program!


Sometimes life isn’t fair…for a fiduciary.

October 8th, 2014

 

Sometimes the law isn’t fair.

But sometimes, it seems unfair because you don’t know the rules.

In the recent case of Santomenno v. John Hancock, poor understanding led plan sponsors to agree to terms that led to excessive fees charged by the service provider to the plan. Either the plan sponsors were unaware of what they signed up for, or the service provider duped them. On September 26, 2014, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision to grant John Hancock’s motion to dismiss, ruling that John Hancock was not a fiduciary – therefore, it was not required to watch out for imprudent or disloyal activities such as excessive fees.

Read the rest of this entry »


Regulatory Changes Concerning Municipal Bonds

September 17th, 2014

There are some concerns that the new GASB statements for municipal bonds will impact retirement plans. Here is our response to your concerns, so that you can distinguish the true indications from the surrounding media noise.

Due to the changes to GASB statements no. 67 and 68, how will retirement plans be impacted by recent and potential future downgrades to municipal bonds?

Read the rest of this entry »


Save Up to Break Stuff: Retirement Saving Should Not be Taken Lightly

July 28th, 2014

By: Katherine Brown, Research Associate, Castle Rock Investment Company

My grandmother loved to drive. After they took away her license, she enthusiastically offered the use of her 1989 Crown Victoria to anyone who was visiting her, whether they had a car of their own or not. She also purchased a motorized scooter to get around her elegant, eerily silent retirement home. Often, the only sound was the elevator music playing through the halls and the whirring of the small motor on her scooter.

My grandmother loved to drive fast. Gran’s scooter was notorious for knocking down other nursing home residents, potted living and plastic plants, and the occasional painting from a wall. Ever the charmer, she would convince the staff not to take away her precious wheels. And she always paid for the damage that she caused because her husband and children set up a generous retirement fund for her.

This chart is intended for hypothetical illustration only, and is not intended to be representative of the past or future performance of any particular investment. It assumes a 7% average annual total return with no withdrawals or distributions, and reinvesting of all dividends and capital gains. Actual rates of returns cannot be predicted and will fluctuate. It does not reflect an actual investment, nor does it account for the effects of taxes, any investment expenses or withdrawals. Returns are not guaranteed and results may vary. Investment returns cannot be predicted and will fluctuate. Investor results may be more or less.These stories aren’t possible without comfortable retirement savings. Rather than a funny family story, this could easily be a sad tale of an elderly woman who crashed into something and had to move out of her residence because the cost of damages were too high. In a worldwide Future of Retirement survey, 18% of US citizens said they would never be able to retire from all paid employment.

You don’t know where your passions will take you, or whether your spouse’s bad driving will become the stuff of family legend. Saving for retirement should not be taken lightly. Though you may not like to think about growing old, you will need an income one day when you’re no longer capable of earning one. Care for your 401(k) by saving as early as you can.

In case you can’t picture it, Merrill Lynch offers a free face aging service on their website. If you’d like to peek into the future and see what you’ll look like at 90, try it out.

 

Katherine Brown completed a Master’s degree in Global Finance, Trade, and Economic Integration from the University of Denver. Her research and writing focus on international monetary economics and central banking. She can be reached at Katherine@castlerockinvesting.com.


Water Cooler Wisdom – First Quarter 2014

April 16th, 2014

Water Cooler Wisdom 1Q12Water Cooler Wisdom 1Q12A great deal happened in the world during the first quarter of 2014. The ECB may be pursuing quantitative easing, the Federal Reserve continues to send mixed messages about tapering, China is slowing down, the U.K. is set to grow the faster than any other advanced nation, and Gwyneth and Chris have split…or have they? According to the International Monetary Fund, the global growth outlook is positive, although the recovery is somewhat shaky and uneven. While there is a widespread fear of deflation worldwide, the hawks still stand by their position that uncontrolled inflation may still be in the future. In this economic environment, it is necessary to sift through a significant amount of noise to see the real economic picture.

The United States economy continues to grow but it is not going gangbusters. The polar vortex, along with the seemingly unending winter weather in the Eastern part of the United States, slowed economic growth during the first quarter of 2014. Regional economic indicators, including vehicle sales and employment, increased during the somewhat more temperate month of March, undoubtedly leaving residents and businesses looking forward to sunnier weather ahead. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7% and GDP increased by 2.6%. According to some analysts, the current inflation rate of 1.6% (see: Consumer Price Index) represents a lower bound to US inflation, The Federal Reserve continues to be committed to tapering but it seems somewhat reluctant to say ‘when’ due to continued concern about inflation. While the market will likely continue to experience spasms at every word Janet Yellen breathes, it may be more business as usual for the Fed in the near future.

Equities (see: Returns and Valuations by Style) have increased slightly but remain in what some would consider normal territory. It is important to note, however, that some sectors of the equities market have increased by 275.2% since the market low in March 2009. Overall, the market growth is not enough to risk substantial changes in inflation or interest rates but also not slow enough to decelerate overall growth. Essentially, it’s smooth-sailing.

As of April 9, 2014, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC approved a new rule requiring the eight largest U.S. banks to greatly increase their leverage ratio (essentially, they need to hold more capital). This rule is in response to the increased emphasis on macro-prudential regulation and the fact that many are still shaking in their boots from the aftershocks of the Global Financial Crisis. This rule will help to ensure that systemically important banks have the capital to lend in any economic environment, guarding against a credit contraction if market conditions were to negatively change. This may mean easier lending for smaller banks whose leverage ratio is not quite as high but since this rule does not take effect until 2018, the real results are yet to be seen.

Since the start of 2014, the discussion of unconventional monetary policies has been more, well, unconventional. The European Central Bank may be in the process of become policy bedfellows with the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan and Bank of England by implementing quantitative easing as a monetary policy tool. The ECB has been considering this as well as negative interest rates to protect from decreasing inflation. These negative interest rates would affect deposits at the ECB since these banks would be required to actually pay to park their money. The monetary policy motive for this would be that these banks, avoiding the extra ‘tax,’ would rather lend out their money to the private sector. This would spur growth and ideally protect against the low inflation. Quantitative easing is a little trickier for the Eurozone. Whereas the US and UK can purchase bonds from their own individual markets, the ECB has 18 countries to choose from. Buying from France could give an unfair advantage, whereas purchasing bonds from Greece could throw Germany into an uproar. Some economists suggest that the ECB purchase Treasuries from the Fed to help unwind our rounds of quantitative easing. What a ‘taper tantrum’ that might cause.

While the economy is improving, there is still a long road ahead. However, given that holding cash yields a 0% return, it is still an attractive time to invest, regardless of the current interest rate climate (see: Asset Class Returns). So, go out, get invested, become diversified and have a wonderful spring.

Laurel Mazur is Castle Rock Investment Company’s Research Associate. Laurel Mazur is a graduate student at the University of Denver pursuing a dual Master’s degree in Economics and Global Finance, Trade, and Economic Integration. Most of her research and writing focuses on international monetary economics and central banking. She can be reached at Laurel@CastleRockInvesting.com.