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RETIREMENT PLANS FAQ #3
3. Plan Information To Review
If you have a question about your or your spouse's retirement plan, you can start by looking for an
answer in the information that the plan provides. You can request this information from a plan
administrator, the person who is in charge of running the plan. The employer can tell you how to
contact the plan administrator.
Information Provided By The Retirement Plan
Each retirement plan is required to have a formal, written plan document that details how it operates
and its requirements. As noted previously, there is also a booklet that describes the key plan rules,
called the Summary Plan Description (SPD), which should be much easier to read and understand.
The SPD should include a summary of any material changes to the plan or to the information required
to be in the SPD. In many cases, you can start with the SPD and then look at the plan document if you
still have questions.
In addition, plans must provide you with a number of notices.
For example, defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, generally are required to provide
advance notice to employees when a “blackout period” occurs. A blackout period is when a participant’
s right to direct investments, take loans, or obtain distributions is suspended for a period of at least
three consecutive business days. Blackout periods can often occur when plans change
recordkeepers or investment options.
Some plan information, such as the Summary Plan Description, must be provided to you automatically
and without charge at the time periods indicated below. You may request a Summary Plan Description
at other times, but your employer might charge you a copying fee. You must ask the plan if you want
other information, such as a copy of the written plan document or the plan’s Form 5500 annual
financial report, and you may have to pay a copying fee. See Retirement Plan Key Information. Many
employers provide benefit information on a Web site.
In some cases, plans provide information more frequently than required by Federal law. For instance,
many large defined contribution plans provide quarterly benefit statements, and some plans allow
participants to check their statements online or by telephone.
The plan’s annual financial report (Form 5500) is also available (there is a copying fee if over 100
pages) by contacting the U.S. Department of Labor, EBSA Public Disclosure Facility, Room N-1513,
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20210, Tel: 202.693.8673. In addition, if your plan
administrator does not provide you, as a participant covered under the plan, with a copy of the
Summary Plan Description automatically or after you request it, you may contact the Department of
Labor toll free at 1.866.444.EBSA (3272) for help.
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