As we move through our fourth decade, things seem to change in ways that we do not expect. Much to the dismay of vendors, advisors and the participants, the realm of the 403(b) has not been able to escape the proverbial midlife crisis either.
A true child of the 60’s, with the first 403(b) regulations released in 1964, the 403(b) followed the beat of a different drummer, separate from the self-absorbed and attention grabbing 401(k) that emerged almost two decades later. The warning signs of something on the horizon were there, and as we were soon to find out, to everything there is a season. For the 403(b), it started in November 2004 with the proposed regulations, and then we faced the confirmation of some our worst fears with the release of the final regulations in July of 2007. The final version of the new 403(b) regulations touched any employee requested transaction, including loans, hardships and exchanges, not to mention the additional oversight and reporting requirements that fell to the plan sponsors.
Recent reports indicate that four leading Asian exchanges are close to completing a stock exchange integration initiative which will allow cross-border trading between four South Asian countries. In this initiative, the Bursa Malaysia, the Philippine Stock Exchange, the Singapore Exchange and the Stock Exchange of Thailand have signed a letter of intent with NYSE Technologies, the technology arm of NYSE Euronext. This is a significant step towards a firm commitment on the technology project. In addition, Vietnam’s Hochiminh Stock Exchange and Indonesia Stock Exchange are also backing the project. This could eventually lead to the emergence of a single Southeast Asian market for equities, including stocks from most of the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), with a combined market capitalization approaching $1 trillion.
Advisors are under increasing pressure from their clients to help guide them back to their financial state prior to the fourth quarter of 2008. As investors watched their investment values plummet and retirement dreams fade, many have turned to their financial advisors for guidance.