What Physicians Look For in a Retirement Plan


In a recent poll, physicians across the state of Oklahoma were asked about their current retirement plan. UPAL’s goal was to learn if Oklahoma doctors have a retirement plan that they are satisfied with and what features of that plan are most important to them. Not only did we confirm what we already knew physicians value in a retirement plan, but we learned that many doctors are only partially satisfied or even dissatisfied with their current retirement planning situation because many of their expectations just aren’t being met. Keep reading to learn what doctors look for in a retirement plan.

High investment returns

This makes sense. You invest money so that it will achieve a return and grow. Otherwise, why not just open a savings account? But rates of return on investments are uncertain and cannot be promised or projected with accuracy. So, if an advisor comes to you with claims that he/she can guarantee a certain percentage of returns, be very careful about doing business with that person. Anyone promising constant, excessive investment performance is not being truthful. Managers rarely consistently exceed their relevant performance benchmarks and they cannot predict the future of investment performances. In the wise words of Warren Buffett, “Forecasts may tell you a great deal about the forecaster; they tell you nothing about the future.”

Reasonable administrative fees

Retirement plan management fees are often netted through returns on the investment funds, thereby eating into your earnings. So when choosing a plan manager, it’s best to know how your fees are collected, how they are disclosed to you, what the average expense ratio is, and how much the front- or back-end load is. UPAL utilizes institution and other funds with the lowest expense ratio achievable and with no front- or back-end load. One of the benefits of client ownership is that UPAL can further reduce costs by lowering its Retirement Program service fees and sometimes even waiving all Plan administrative fees like we did this past March for the third consecutive year. With UPAL, physicians also have the option of paying administrative fees as a deductible practice business expense.

Easy setup with turnkey administration

When a healthcare practice offers a retirement program as a benefit to their employees, the practice owner rarely wants to manage every detail of that plan. One of the characteristics that physicians said they look for in their plan is an easy set-up with a turnkey operation. UPAL does all the heavy lifting for its Plan participants. All the details (plan design, plan administration, legal compliance, and record keeping) are handled by experienced UPAL staff resulting in very low maintenance to the practice owner and office manager. UPAL even assists the practice in responding to regulatory plan audits when they occur.

Personalized customer support & service

In addition to a low maintenance retirement planning experience, we learned that physicians value customer service and support tailored to their specific needs. UPAL refers to this as “White Glove Service.” This is when your plan administrator sets up your retirement plan according to your practice’s individual and unique needs and requirements and takes care of all those added tasks that come with managing a plan. These are the things you don’t think about until they are your responsibility like producing documents for audits, handling federal plan amendments, and preparing and distributing notices required by the IRS and Department of Labor, just to name a few. This is the kind of automatic support you receive as a UPAL member participating in our Retirement Plan Program. UPAL also provides personalized asset allocation, interacts with your CPA to help solve tax problems, and even arranges employee meetings to assist eligible practice staff in enrolling in the Plan. See the entire list of UPAL’s White Glove Services.

Knowledgeable investment advice

Investment education and advice is important to most healthcare providers. Like any other investor, doctors want to know that the person handling their money is adequately experienced and knowledgeable to advise them when they have questions or concerns. An important accomplishment that UPAL is particularly proud of is its 30-year track record of focusing on serving only physicians. There are unique considerations when designing and managing retirement plans for physicians and healthcare practices, so it can’t be stated enough how important it is that a healthcare provider choose a plan manager who knows the ins and outs of specifically managing a doctor’s investments.

Flexible management choices with the option to self-manage

About half of all physicians polled stated that they self-manage their retirement plan. So of course a plan with flexible options is important. For UPAL members who choose to make their own investment choices, the Self-Directed Option (SDO) offers the participant the opportunity to purchase any bond or mutual fund without additional charge and buy stocks at a minimal cost. Of course, UPAL Plan participants also have the option to NOT self-manage if they choose. UPAL has core investment options that are structured to perform consistent with the market.

Ability to monitor their account and make adjustments online

Physicians have extremely busy schedules and can’t always take a break during the day to sit down and pick up the phone. So the ability to log on anytime to keep track of investments is critical. Through UPAL’s financial partner, Bank of Oklahoma, UPAL plan participants have access to their accounts day or night via the StartRight website and now through the new StartRight mobile app. This added convenience was one of the most important factors that physicians said they look for in an investment provider.

What we took away from this research is that convenience is crucial for physicians when it comes to investment planning and management. We found that those who are more hands-on make use of available technology and plan flexibility but also appreciate access to knowledgeable advisors and great customer service when they have questions about their accounts. Lower plan fees are also important. After all, since the performance of the market can’t be guaranteed or predicted, physician investors need to know that the administrative fees won’t absorb all of their earnings when returns aren’t at their best. We’d be interested in hearing from you. Was there anything else that should have been on this list? What do you value most in your retirement plan?

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