Business Consulting

What Does A Retirement Plan Advisor Do?

I am often asked what it is that a Retirement Plan Advisor does (we call them “Retirement Planologists” at our company). First, it’s important to know that a retirement plan advisor works with a company to help them build and manage their company’s retirement plan for their employees. (That’s a very different thing than helping an individual plan for their retirement, which is what a financial planner/financial advisor does.) A Retirement Plan Advisor probably specializes in pensions, 401k, 403b, 457 and other plans provided by corporations, non-profit, or Taft Hartley employers, and they may even have certain designations or credentials specific to employee retirement plans.

Here’s a simple guide to typical services a Retirement Plan Advisor provides:

Investment Policy Development, Fund Menu Design – putting together a thoughtful instruction manual for how a plan’s investment options are chosen and monitored

Plan Design Consulting – considering available features and working with the plan’s third party administrator to identify what might work better for the plan under a different design

Compliance Oversight – helping the client stay on task to meet required deadlines, educating them on their fiduciary responsibilities, making life easier when it comes to how the plan functions

Act as Investment Fiduciary (3(21)) to the Plan or Act as Discretionary Fiduciary (3(38)) to the Plan – sharing investment liability with decision makers

Vendor Management/Issue Resolution/Vendor Search – helping the client manage vendors as their advocate and translator or helping replace the vendor

Transition Services to New Recordkeeper – helping coordinate and project manage the many moving parts for when a plan moves to a new service provider

Vendor Fee/Service Reviews – making sure clients know what they’re paying for what services so they can determine if fees are reasonable, also helping educate clients on what else is available in the marketplace

Investment Monitoring/Committee Meetings/Fund Replacements/Fund Manager Search – driving the bus for reviewing investments, providing due diligence reports and executive summary of what’s going on with investment options, documenting the meeting minutes or providing documentation of decisions made

Education Program Strategy/Employee Meetings – figuring out how to help employees understand and appreciate the plan and then determining the course of action, conducting meetings onsite, group or 1:1, or through webinars or conference calls, and developing employee communication materials

Asset Allocation Modeling – putting together a custom set of asset allocation models taking into consideration the plan and the participants

Use this guide to help select services for your plan, or just as anecdotal evidence of what’s available in the marketplace!


Courtenay Shipley has a diverse background in the retirement plan industry providing a unique foundation for her clients in the areas of fiduciary responsibility, investment analysis, and participant education. During her career she has provided institutional investment consulting to qualified retirement plans, developed business strategy for a boutique third party administrator and recordkeeper, conducted over 9,000 education meetings to groups and individual employees, and served the nonprofit market.

She is the founder of Retirement Planology and a facilitator of several Her Corner groups.

You can view her profile HERE.

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