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When choosing your wedding gown, stick to your style

June 26, 2012 by  
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(Metro Editorial Services) — For most women about to tie the knot, the selection of a dress is one of the first and most important decisions about planning a wedding. Since there are thousands of options in a wide price range, finding the perfect dress can be a long and difficult process. But if you make some decisions before entering the store, the search will be easy and much more enjoyable.

First things first

Start by knowing your limits. To avoid disappointment, determine your maximum budget to invest in a dress, and don’t forget to include additional elements such as lingerie, shoes, jewelry, veil and/or hair ornaments. Then, take inventory of your personal style. If you know you don’t feel comfortable with low-cut or sleeveless dresses, for example, you can immediately eliminate those options. The key is to eliminate some style options before looking at magazines or visiting stores, and then be open to other possibilities.

Firm but flexible

Although you will get tons of opinions—from the mothers, sisters, friends or the store staff—regarding your selection of a wedding dress, ultimately the decision is the bride’s only. A good strategy is to be open to suggestions regarding the dresses you will try on, but to reserve the right to select the one you like the most. With so many potential options, you might consider using a camera to take pictures wearing the dresses that could become “rivals”.

A dress that will flatter your figure

Remember: Your goal is to find a dress that flatters your body and expresses your personal style, not to fit into a particular size. If you find your appearance in a white dress to be ghostly, don’t hesitate to select a creamier color, or a dress with decorative details of different color near the neck, shoulders and face. Also, there is no rule that dictates that a wedding dress should be floor length. If you have in mind a day wedding or an informal wedding, you might consider a cocktail dress (which falls a few inches above the ankles) or even shorter.

Comfort is vital

The style and fit should be the two most important factors when choosing a wedding dress, but comfort should not be ignored. Ask yourself if you will feel comfortable in a particular dress, according to the site where your wedding will take place. For example, if you have always dreamed with an outdoor wedding, you won’t want to use a long-tailed dress that could get tangled when walking to or from the altar. Even if you are planning a party indoors, having a dress and shoes as comfortable as they are beautiful will greatly increase the likelihood of enjoying your special day to the max.

Fees slice into 401(k)s – Omaha World

June 25, 2012 by  
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This summer, 401(k) participants will receive a statement that shows, for the first time, retirement account fees. After you get the statement and read it, you should:

Call or email the company that manages your plan if you have questions, or look at the plan’s website for more information.

Decide whether the fees are proper or you should choose another option in the 401(k) plan. Beyond fees, other factors in choosing an option include return on your investment and each option’s risk.

Ask the person at work who’s in charge of your retirement plan whether your company plan is competitive with other plans.

Ask whether your company has “benchmarked” its plan in the past three years. If not, when is the next benchmarking?

Remember that you’re saving for your retirement with pre-tax dollars and, most likely, matching dollars from your employer.

See if you can find a better way to save for retirement before deciding to leave your 401(k) plan. For most people, that’s difficult to find.

Click here for a U.S. Department of Labor Model 401(k) comparison chart

***

If you’ve got a 401(k) retirement account, you may be used to watching stock market numbers rise and fall. But later this summer, your statement will include a new set of numbers to watch.

New Labor Department rules are requiring fuller disclosure about the fees you’re paying to maintain that account.

And, if recent surveys are any indication, you’ll probably be shocked to learn that those fees can make a difference of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for your retirement.

One study estimated that an average-income working couple will pay $154,000 in fees and lost investment returns over their working lives. Another study reported a 1 percentage point increase in fees cuts 20 percent from retirement savings over a 35-year career.

Yet an AARP survey found that 71 percent of those polled believed they didn’t pay fees on their 401(k)s.

The federal General Accountability Office found that even many employers do not understand some of the fees being paid. In most cases, employees pay most or all of the fees, reducing the money they will have for retirement.

As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor is requiring 401(k) account managers to disclose fees customers are being charged. Some in the retirement savings industry say the issues are complex and question whether the disclosures will be useful to the average employee.

The goal is for wage earners “to have as much available for retirement as they can possibly have,” with less money eaten up by fees, said Michael Davis, deputy assistant secretary for the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration in Washington, D.C.

“It’s important to get what you pay for,” he said. “The rule is going to create a lot more focus on that very question.”

We’re talking about a rule that requires transparency and disclosure, backed by the force of law.

The rule follows more than five years of discussion, through Republican and Democratic admini-strations and Congresses. The first disclosures start July 1 for employers, followed by Aug. 31 for employees.

Section 401(k) of the federal income tax code allows people to put aside pre-tax money for retirement, and employers can contribute, too. The plans have replaced most traditional employer-paid pension plans. Today, 72 million people have about $3 trillion in their 401(k) accounts, the Labor Department says.

Employees and employers have been paying fees all along, but some of those fees have been hidden. Financial firms sometimes split fees through complex “revenue-sharing” agreements that aren’t spelled out. The GAO found that fees for small plans average six times higher than for large plans.

Financial services companies were not required to disclose the fees — until now.

The federal agency designed a model disclosure chart, although 401(k) managers can use their own formats. The model chart is posted with this story on Omaha.com. Davis said the chart is designed so the average person can understand and use the information.

Using figures from 401(k) managers, employers will be required to report expense ratios for the investments offered in a plan, showing participants the charges per $1,000 invested. A Deloitte/Investment Company Institute study late last year said the median 401(k) expense ratio was 0.78 percent per year. But the range reported was wide: from 0.28 percent to 1.38 percent.


Employers say they are preparing for the disclosures and hope employees look at the new information.

“It’s my understanding that it’s going to be an open book,” said Dave Hanus, chief financial officer for Lueder Construction Co. The company’s plan is considered small — 40 members and about $2 million. He plans to meet with employees to tell them what’s coming, and there’s also information online and coming in the mail. “We’ll tell them it’s important to review.”

Allan Harry, controller for Jensen Tire Auto in Omaha, said the company’s 110-member plan contains about $3 million.

“You hate to see your principal getting eaten up in fees,” Harry said. “But the most important thing is if you trust the people you’re dealing with. There are fees, but are they reasonable? …

“If they’re giving solid advice, I think that’s more important than trying to get down to zero fees. They’re going to get fees from somewhere.”


One of the large local 401(k) plans is HDR Inc.’s $1.25 billion, 9,160-member plan. Dennis Austin, chairman of the HDR committee that oversees the fund, said the committee already watches the fees closely. He said both employers and plan managers have a “fiduciary duty” to act in the participants’ best interests, not only in complying with the new fee-reporting rule but also in managing the employees’ money.

The company has an education program for employees, with online seminars, fliers and a website full of information.

“Sometimes people don’t take enough advantage of that,” Austin said. HDR’s advisers tell the committee that the plan’s fees are below other plans of similar size. “These plans don’t run themselves. It does take money to run these plans.”

But you can’t simply say that the lowest-fee plan will yield the most retirement money, or that a higher-fee plan will yield less, said Jeff Sharp, a principal with the Silverstone Group employee benefits company of Omaha. Silverstone receives fees for advising 401(k) plans.

“There’s a limited amount of money that an employer is willing to contribute to a plan,” Sharp said, and if the employer pays more of the fees, there’s less money for matching employees’ contributions. If the employer’s match is bigger, the fees fall on the employee.

Bottom line: Employees shouldn’t let fees discourage them from having 401(k) accounts and should remember that they are benefiting by making investments with pre-tax money and often by receiving matching funds from employers.

Employees also will need to be the ones who press their employers to compare fees with those charged by other companies or to negotiate lower fees from current providers, said Brent Glading, founder of the Glading Group, a consulting firm that analyzes 401(k)s.

Companies say, “It doesn’t save money for the company, so why do I care?” Glading said. “There has to a be a groundswell from the employees.”


Another company receiving fees for 401(k) accounts in the Omaha area is Milliman Inc. of Seattle. Gerald Erickson, a Milliman principal, estimated that 10 percent of employers are overpaying for 401(k) services, mostly because they have not compared plans “for years and years” to make sure the fees are reasonable.

Erickson said the disclosure process is costly, and many employees will lack the context to use the information. “They’re just going to throw it in the trash, or put it in a drawer and never look at it,” he said. In that case, the employee is simply relying on the employer to have the best plan.

Jim Raabe, chief financial officer for Lindsay Manufacturing Co. of Columbus, Neb., said it remains to be seen how valuable the disclosure will be to employees.

“There’s definitely some good information in there,” he said, giving employers better information when they shop for plans. Until now, fees often are not disclosed or are listed in a way that makes apples-to-apples comparisons difficult.

But new rules “always tend to be a little bit more complicated and a little harder to predict the final outcomes,” Raabe said. “With any regulation, there’s usually a very good intention. It doesn’t always turn out the way it’s expected.”

This report includes material from the New York Times.


Contact the writer:

402-444-1080, steve.jordon@owh.com


How revenue-sharing fees can reduce earnings by 401(k) retirement plans