Should Employees Be Allowed to Play Fantasy Sports at Work?

More than 56 million Americans play fantasy football—37 million of which are employed full time. While many employers may be concerned about loss of productivity during the 17-week football season, there are actually many benefits that can be achieved by allowing employees to play fantasy sports in moderation at work. More

Are Your Retirement Plan Fees Too High? Understanding the Influx of Lawsuits Affecting Higher Ed. Institutions

Higher educational institutions find themselves having to deal with multiple, seemingly conflicting priorities as they balance the best interests of students, staff, faculty, rising costs, enrollment challenges and compliance fatigue.  In light of the recent flurry of lawsuits and the new DOL Fiduciary Rule, colleges and universities are now also being forced to take a closer look at their fiduciary responsibilities as it relates to their 401(k) or 403(b) plans. And with good reason. More

A Brexit Update: What you need to know

On June 23rd, UK voters decided to leave the European Union (EU) by a margin of 52% – 48%. For months in advance of this referendum, the potential for the UK leaving the EU has been known as “Brexit”. In the immediate aftermath of this historic decision, global markets have been thrown into chaos, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned effective in October and investors worldwide are justifiably asking what’s next? More

Are Your Female Employees Living in the Sandwich Generation?

Women play a large role in today's workforce, but oftentimes, when their career is reaching a peak and they are looking ahead to their retirement, they may find themselves having to help their children with college expenses or the financial challenges of  young adulthood, while at the same time looking after the needs of their aging parents. Squeezed in the middle, they're in the "sandwich generation"a group loosely defined as people in their 40’s to 60’s sandwiched between caring for children and aging parents. More

Cash, Money, Claims: Avoid over-paying for prescription drugs

While continued price hikes are unfortunately not all that surprising in today’s climate, the lack of control and transparency in the drug industry makes it extremely difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about their prescribed medical needs. How much consumers pay at the pharmacy  depends on an array of factors: health insurance policies and copayments and deductibles, pharmacies, and the pharmaceutical benefits managers (PBMs) negotiating prices behind-the-scenes. More

5 Solutions for Promoting Sleep at Your Company

According to a study from Virgin Pulse, 76% of employees reported feeling tired most days of the week. Fatigue and exhaustion can be a serious problem for your business. Fatigued employees are less likely to be productive and focused on the job. This lack of focus can lead to more mistakes, procrastination and a negative work environment.

Retirement Planning: Whose interests come first?

The recent fiduciary proposal set forth by the Department of Labor has many retirement plan sponsors asking what this will mean for them and their employees moving forward. The overarching theme of this initiative is to ensure that financial advisors are acting in the best interests of the retirement plan participants and the plan sponsors. Although this might seem like common sense to most of us, there haven’t been clearly defined guidelines in the past regarding certain actions which may result in a conflict of interests between the financial advisor and the retirement investor. More

Be a fi-DO-ciary

Thinking of my dad, John Carnevale, JD, AIF®, today. One of my favorite “Johnisms” was:

Week #11: "Do the right thing. Always. Demonstrating an unwavering commitment to doing the right thing in every action you take and in every decision you make, even when no one's looking. Always tell the truth. If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize and make it right."

10 Ways to Implement a Successful HSA

Offering a health plan that includes an HSA option is something an increasing number of employers are choosing to do. You may not be sure where to begin when trying to implement a successful HSA plan, but by following these suggestions, you can ensure that your plan is successful and beneficial to your employees. More

5 Important HR Issues to Monitor for 2016

Employers have new challenges to contend with in 2016, resulting from Supreme Court decisions, federal and state legislation, and actions by federal regulatory agencies. There is a real cost for employers who fail to comply with new laws. For example, the most recent Performance Accountability Report for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), states that victims of discrimination received more than $525 million from private and government workplaces in 2015. More

A thought to start your week: In loving memory of John Carnevale

John started each week by sending inspiration (via email) to encourage all of us at Sentinel to always put our best foot forward with each other, our clients and anyone we may cross paths with. Below are 10 of my favorite Johnisms. In a nutshell, these life lessons define what mattered most to him, and what will continue to resonate with us all in his absence. More

9 Ways Your 401(k) Plan Design can Help You Pass ADP Testing

Each year, qualified 401(k) plans are required to pass the Actual Deferral Percentage (ADP) test, which is designed to ensure retirement benefits do not disproportionately favor highly paid employees. Should the plan fail, HCEs might be subject to refunding the plan in order to maintain plan compliance. More

5 Tips to Help get Your Older Employees Back on Track!

Being positive about situations helps in all aspect of life. Planning for retirement is no different. Our financial advisors think it’s never too late to start or plan for the golden years of your life! The reason we are optimistic is that we are planners. With a proper plan in place, much can be accomplished if you put the work and time in that it deserves. More

Are HSAs Going Mainstream?

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are still in their teenage years. First introduced in 2003, HSA adoption has been slow, particularly in some states (ahem, Massachusetts). Now, over 12 years later, are HSAs finally going mainstream?  More

Information Overload: A blessing and a curse

Technology is a blessing and it can be a curse. We are surrounded by data, devices and technologies that are meant to simplify our lives. Often they can do the opposite and overwhelm even the simplest of tasks. We live in an age when companies are building iPads into baby strollers and biotech firms are manufacturing microscopic computer chips to interact with blood cells. It’s true. More

Feeling the Pain? Prescription Drug Costs Still on the Rise

Now that most large employers have completed open enrollment and many employees have had some exposure to their new health plans, I thought I’d provide some insight into why your plan probably has a higher deductible, your prescription drug tiers may have changed and/or your per pay period payroll deductions probably increased. Drug costs continue to be on the rise—new specialty drugs, as well as many commonly used generic brands have surpassed the inflation rate—sometimes by a long shot! It’s no wonder that more than 75% of Americans now say their top health concern is the rising price of prescription drugs. More

Stable Value Funds – Rising Rates, Liquidity and Performance

Stable value funds remain popular options in many defined contribution plans. A recent Vanguard study indicates that 57% of defined contribution plans offer a stable value fund. Recent news has highlighted the impact of rising rates on bond performance and market liquidity, and much of this press has focused on the high yield or “junk” bond market, but what about stable value funds? More

3 Financial Planning Tips to Help you Jump Start 2016

With the passing of another year comes the anticipation of and the opportunity for a fresh start. Below are three financial planning tips to help you jump start 2016. More

Educating Employees on Cyber Security

Employees’ lack of cyber security knowledge may pose one of the greatest risks to an organization’s network and data security. One of the greatest vectors for an attack is email. Hackers often send “phishing” emails that contain viruses which can then be opened by unsuspecting employees. More

Health Savings for the Golden Years

Piggy-backing off of John Carnevale's previous post How Your Health Insurance Program can Better Prepare You and Your Family for Retirement, I want to reiterate the importance of saving for medical expenses in retirement. More

How to Make Your Organizational Changes Stick

Most organizations emerging from the challenging economy of recent years are still looking for ways to optimize improvement. Achieving enduring, true improvement is not a sprint; think of it more as a marathon. Effective change planning requires significant analysis, time and effort and should include the following three questions: More

5 Things We're Thankful For (besides turkey of course)

At Sentinel, Thanksgiving is hands down our favorite holiday! But, as much as we enjoy food, family and football, we are forever thankful for these five things... More

6 Steps to Making Innovation Successful

In recent years, numerous discussions with non-profits, higher education institutions, federal agencies and commercial organizations have shown me that innovation is as sought after as the Holy Grail.  

I recently attended a terrific session on innovation at a recent EACUBO Annual Meeting in which renowned innovation expert, Jeff Hoffman, described innovation as a process and an exercise. His session highlighted key components of innovation including the power of wonder, looking at old things in new ways (think recombination), open-mindedness, information seeking (he calls it “info sponging”), etc. More

Employee Benefit Plan Audits Under Fire

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a study conducted by independent qualified public accountants (IQPAs) that assesses the level and quality of audits of ERISA-covered employee benefit plans. Not surprisingly, their findings included a strong correlation between the number of employee benefit audits performed by a CPA firm and the quality of the audit performed. More

How Your Health Insurance Program can Better Prepare You and Your Family for Retirement

With the coming of autumn comes open enrollment season for most businesses. More than likely, your Human Resource department is busy putting the final touches on your company’s 2016 benefits package and soon you will be asked to make your selections. This year, you should ask if your company offers a Qualified High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). More

Your Group Health Benefits Program Needs a Strategy: Addressing the Generational Changes Impacting Your Business

My business partner and Sentinel’s CEO, John Carnevale, recently wrote a blog post on creating a strategy for generational changes impacting your business. His theme was mainly centered on the Baby Boomer generation and the impacts they may be having on your business. I’d like to take his concept a step further and address how having four generations of workers (The Veterans or “greatest generation”, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y a/k/a Millennials) complicates how you should serve your employee population, particularly in the area of healthcare. More

Life Changes That Have a Big Impact on Your Finances

Whether you planned for them or not, life’s little changes have a big impact on your financial future. More

The Importance of 401(k) Education

Whether employees are close to retirement or have decades left in the workforce, saving for retirement is a key component of their financial security. Offering a 401(k) account or other retirement benefits as part of your benefits packages can increase employee loyalty, especially if you offer a contribution match. Good retirement benefits are also a great recruitment and retention tool. However, benefits are only helpful if your employees are aware of and understand them. More

Should You Expect an Independent Audit Based on the Size of Your Retirement Plan?

With the July 31st Form 5500 deadline for qualified retirement plans approaching, it’s important for plan sponsors to familiarize themselves with the audit compliance rules associated with qualified retirement plans. More

Insurance Tax Reporting Requirements: SSN Collection Process

Starting in 2016, health insurers and plan sponsors of self-insured group health plans are required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to collect and send to the IRS information about individuals’ health insurance coverage for the previous calendar year. More

Changing the Future for America

If nothing changes in the next 15 years, Americans will face a “retirement apocalypse.” These are not my words, but those of Brock Johnson, Head of Retirement Solutions at Morningstar. His keynote address this past week at PLANSPONSOR's National Conference in Chicago painted a bleak picture concerning the state of retirement readiness in America. It also made me think about how easy it would be to change the future for America if business leaders leveraged their unique position in society. More

Your Benefits Program Needs a Strategy: Addressing the Generational Changes Impacting Your Business

The Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) is reaching retirement age, but they aren’t retiring—at least not at the rate they should be. And, as the largest generation born in U.S. history, the sheer numbers coupled with their reluctance to leave the workforce will impact businesses in the years to come. Organizations that take the time to strategize now will have a competitive edge in the future. More

Women, it's time to make health a priority!

National Women’s Health Week is an observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority and, thankfully under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more types of preventive care must be provided to women at no extra cost! More

12 Health Care Coverage Questions for Parents of Young Adults

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made sweeping changes to the U.S. health care system, including an extension of health insurance coverage to young adult children up to the age of 26. If you have or know a young adult keep reading... More

6 Tips to Spring-Clean Your
Employee Handbook

Now that benefits open enrollment is finished, you may want to consider dusting off your employee handbooks for an annual review. Regularly reviewing employment policies and procedures is becoming increasingly important as workplace legislation and regulations continue to change. More

What Every Beginning Investor Should Know

The idea of making your money work for you through investments has an obvious appeal to it. However, investing—especially for beginners—can be tricky. Here are four questions to help get you started. More

Fighting the Flu in the Workplace

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that sick days and lost productivity lead to a $7 billion loss each year for employers! More

Automatic Enrollment: It Works.

During the last quarter of 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting with many of our clients by participating in their retirement plan committee meetings. As the conversations unfolded, invariably the topic of participation came up and questions focused on the topic of Automatic Enrollment. Does it work? Do participants get upset when they are automatically enrolled? More

Marijuana in the Workplace

The use of marijuana, which is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, is prohibited by federal law. However, many states have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana. Twenty-four to be exact (AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA). And the changing legal and social acceptance of the drug can create uncertainty for companies when creating and enforcing workplace drug policies. More

3 Must-Read Books for Investors

If you’re looking for a few good reads for holiday gifts, we have some recommendations you won’t want to miss! More

Large Employers by the Numbers

Renewal season is upon us! January 1st is often a common health insurance renewal date for employers nationwide. As companies begin to assess their benefit offerings, keep in mind the top 10 large employer trends for 2015 and beyond...

New Rules. New Opportunity. IRS Notice 2014-54 Creates Favorable Treatment of After-Tax Dollars.

The majority of retirement plan participants contribute pre-tax dollars and receive a tax deduction for their contributions. However, some plans allow participants to make additional “after-tax” contributions over and above the deductible IRS limits ($17,500 for 2014), up to the annual defined contribution plan limit ($52,000 for 2014). More

Early Results are in…

As a follow up to our Top Ten Things to Know about the ACA Exchange Enrollments, the NY Times chimes in with early results for question #9 What is the health status of the 8+ million enrolled?

To Carry, or Not to Carry…That is the FSA Question

October 31, 2013. Almost a year ago, this was the day that changed Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) forever. With this brand new piece of legislation, employers now have options when it comes to how they run their FSA accounts. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Back to School for HSAs!

After seeing the Alegus Technologies’ study on the misconceptions of HSA accountholders, I was struck at how much we have missed the mark on helping people realize the true benefit of their HSA. More

Breaking News: Heath Care Reform is Confusing

It’s almost impossible to escape the daily barrage of news stories, updates, conflicts and changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare.


The Truth About Automatic Enrollment

Since its inception in 2006, automatic contribution arrangements (automatic enrollment) has steadily grown as a plan provision implemented by Plan Sponsors. Some industry experts have loved the feature, while others have squawked at its effectiveness. More

Top 10 Things to Know about the ACA Exchange Enrollments

In light of David Letterman’s retirement announcement, we’ve compiled our own ‘Top 10 List’ on the recent announcement that 8+ million people have signed up for health insurance through the Exchanges. More

3 Steps to Retirement Success with a Registered Investment Advisor

Taking on the fiduciary responsibility that comes with being a plan sponsor is no easy task. By partnering with a registered investment advisor, you can receive assistance establishing a plan that will not only support your company goals, but ultimately help you and your employees build a better retirement future. More

2 Must-Read Books for Plan Sponsors

If you’re looking for a couple good reads to cozy up with during these winter months (or take with you on vacation), we have some recommendations you won’t want to miss! More

5 Reasons Why a Workplace Wellness Program Should be on Your Company’s List of New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year represents a time of new beginnings. For many, this means a recommitment to eating better and exercising more. But, the New Year doesn’t have to be a time to simply focus on individual health; it can also be the time to start addressing your company’s wellness needs too. Changing your business culture to be more health-oriented means more than just a new gym membership: it means thinking about workplace wellness programs and the benefits of a healthier workplace. Here are five reasons workplace wellness is worth looking into this year! More

6 Ways to Increase Plan Participation

Getting your employees engaged in their retirement planning is a big obstacle you must overcome as a plan sponsor. More

Healthy Holiday Choices – How to Limit Your “Gobbling” this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and, that means family, football, and of course lots of food! Here are some quick healthy tips to ensure that you don’t end your Turkey Day feeling fowl! More

FSAs – Ready to Roll!

Big things are happening in the world of of the most frustrating aspects for employees has changed! More

Five Must-Haves of a Great Health Insurance Broker

Let’s face it, choosing the right group insurance broker for your company is no easy task, but that’s no reason to settle for mediocre service. More

HSA: An Opportunity for Both Employers & Employees to Save

Employers across the country are starting to embrace high deductible health insurance plans. These plans offer a long-awaited opportunity for companies to rein in ever-rising healthcare costs while encouraging employees to be more accountable for their own well-being. In 2012, over 13.5 million people were covered by high deductible health insurance plans, 2 million more than the previous year. More

Employers' Responses to the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act continues to significantly affect employers across the nation. In fact, many employers plan to make some organizational changes—from offering wellness-based care to hiring fewer total employees—as a result of health care reform. As provisions continue to take effect, how are employers reacting to and coping with the changes? For more than three-quarters of respondents to the 2013 Health Care Reform Survey (approximately 3300 people), health care reform has increased, or is expected to increase, their organization’s health benefit costs. More

Top 5 Best Practices for Investment Committee Success

Does your investment committee follow clear guidelines for managing your company’s 401k plan? If not, then the risk of liability is higher than it should be. More

Separating Fact from Fiction: The Potential Risks and Rewards of Hiring 3(16) Fiduciaries

Together with the Wagner Law Group, we have put together  Separating Fact from Fiction: The Potential Risks of Hiring 3(16) Fiduciaries, a comprehensive whitepaper to help plan sponsors better understand their fiduciary responsibilities and operate successful qualified plans under ERISA. More

Confused at Checkout? What the PIN option means for Benny card users

A new regulation that gives users of Benny pre-paid benefits cards the option of assigning a personal identification number (PIN) to their card is generating some confusion. More

How Does Your Health Plan Measure Up?

Did you know that the average office visit copay in 2012 was $27.00? More

Health Care Reform Version 2.0: Implications for One and All

On August 6, 2012, Massachusetts passed Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2012 in an effort to slow the rate of state healthcare spending. In his recent white paper  MA Healthcare Reform Version 2.0: Implications for One and All, Rob DiMase breaks down what this ambitious mandate could mean for healthcare providers, employers, and consumers moving forward. More

Healthcare Is Changing. But Will You Save Money?

It’s a confusing time in the healthcare world. The politicians say they are working to drive down medical costs, but then new “consumer friendly” products and services emerge laden with fees and other hidden expenses. More

Innovative Tools That Can Help Reduce Health Care Costs

Health care spending has drastically increased over the last fifty years and this upward trend shows no immediate sign of slowing. In fact, a recent report by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that nearly one-fifth of the gross domestic product (GDP) will be spent on health care by the year 2020. More

Credit Cards: How to Manage Credit Card Debt and Live a Happier Life

Congratulations! You were just approved for your first credit card. Not only that, but the credit limit you got is higher than you imagined it would be. Wow! You must be doing great or else the credit card company wouldn’t have given you such a high credit limit, right? More

Enough with the Headlines…

Yesterday, our local newspapers touted how small-business health co-ops will “slash” rates. Really? The reality is the product offered to the co-op is where the savings will be generated and this product will be available to small businesses whether they are in a co-op or not. More

Fast Track Your Employees' 401(k) Plan

This past week, Sentinel Benefits & Financial Group hosted its 11th Annual Client Educational Exchange at the Henderson House in Weston, Massachusetts. The event was well attended and client feedback has been wonderful.  More

New DOL Regulations: Time to Review Your 401(k) Plan Fees

Fees are on the agenda at the Department of Labor these days.  The DOL has been studying the issue for years but now they are more serious than ever.  New regulations will go into effect next year that will require you to understand the fees and expenses your plan pays – and exactly who is getting paid. More

Market Volatility – Let’s put it in perspective.

Volatility - I think I have heard that word too many times over the last few weeks. Yes, it looks like a majority of Americans who are active in the stock market, or who have 401(k) plans, will once again leave on Friday with an upset stomach and have trouble sleeping over another weekend. More

Can We Have An Adult Conversation?

When my wife and I asked our young son if he would prefer a short trip to Disney World for his birthday in lieu of another in a seemingly endless string of afternoon bowling, laser tag or arcade parties, he chose Disney World. More

Is it Time to Buy Life Insurance?

I guess the majority of people feel like they're never going to die. The results of a study done recently showed that 69% of single parents with children living at home don't have any life insurance. This is a problem. I don't know if the problem is that there are too few life insurance salespeople or there are too few people who are willing to think about life insurance. More

Rate Caps Nearly Over, Provider Disruption on Deck

Now that Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA has joined Neighborhood Health Plan, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and Tufts Health Plan in crafting a compromise with the MA Division of Insurance we can now look forward to the next battle looming over the rising cost of health care, network disruption. More

Still Made in America

Recently I was called by a firm that represented an outsourcing company in India.  The woman on the phone said that she was referred to me by a friend who managed a firm similar to Sentinel Benefits.  She went on to say that my friend was running a very successful business by outsourcing certain work functions to India.  Apparently, the firm in India has acquired and has been trained on the same software system that we use to provide administration services to our clients.  And, because they are living in India, they can do the work for far less money than it costs Sentinel to pay local employees. More

The Trouble with High Deductible Medical Plans

As healthcare costs continue to rise, more and more businesses are forced to control costs by reducing benefits. The latest trend is to offer employees high-deductible medical plans where employees and families must pay the first $1,000 to $3,000 as a deductible before insurance begins to pay benefits. More

The Plan Document – More Like Guidelines or Actual Rules?

As the EGTRRA restatement window closes for pre-approved DC plans and begins to open for pre-approved DB plans, I thought I would pontificate on the importance of the plan document. Operating the plan inconsistent with terms in that document is an operational failure that can threaten a plan’s qualified status. More

Is your company not being reimbursed for the COBRA subsidy?

One thing I learned a long time ago was never to assume. More

Who am I and Why am I Blogging?

For the past 22 years, I have been the President & CEO of Sentinel Benefits & Financial Group. When I walk through the halls of Sentinel Benefits and listen to the types of conversations our experts are having with clients, I am humbled by the team that I am fortunate to lead. More