RIA team running 401k to promote 401(k) plans

On any other week, Chuck Smith helps his clients save for the long run. This week, however, the Nebraska-based registered investment advisor will be running for the long save.

Smith and his team at Qualified Plan Advisors will be running 401K — or 250 miles — in honor of National 401(k) Day Friday. The team started the 401 kilometers on Sunday and will finish the final mile Friday, on 401(k) Day, with a check presentation to Junior Achievement of the Midlands, a nonprofit that inspires and prepares young people for success.

Smith’s goal is to raise awareness about financial planning, building a 401(k) and expanding financial literacy among all ages and populations.

“Besides the obvious similarity that both marathoning and saving for retirement are long, slow journeys, the need to plan is probably the most important shared attribute,” Smith said. “Just as nobody wakes up one morning and jumps into a marathon or ultra-marathon, nobody should simply decide one day not to go into the office anymore and retire. Instead, once a race date or target retirement date is selected, a program needs to be created with specific tasks designed to prepare one for that goal date.”

Smith has been an advisor with Qualified Plan Advisors since 2020, but he’s been in the retirement plan industry since 2003, when he became an ERISA attorney.

His love for long distance running, however, goes back further. He ran his first marathon right after graduating from college, way back in 1997. Since then, he’s run more than 50,000 miles while completing upwards of 35 marathons and numerous 50- and 100-mile ultra-marathons.

As to why he decided to mix his two passions — retirement and running — Smith says it started a few years ago when a coworker gave him an old Dilbert cartoon in which the characters confuse enrolling in the 401(k) with running 401 kilometers.

“From that day forward, I’ve always had in the back of my mind that running 401 kilometers would be a great way to highlight 401(k) plans,” he said. “When I broached the idea with my office colleagues earlier this year, everyone was super excited to participate, so we devised a plan for the five of us to run that distance combined during the week of National 401(k) Day, each running an amount far above anything we have run before.”

In the end, the idea turned into an office team-building event, in addition to promoting 401(k) savings and supporting a great cause. Smith said they chose Junior Achievement as the charity to benefit from the run because the group shares Qualified Plan Advisors’ passion for “improving financial literacy” and is also a “perfect complement to the financial wellness services we provide workers.”

It’s the length of the journey that inherently makes both long-distance running and retirement planning difficult, he said. In fact, the journey is so long that the unexpected should actually be expected.

“While training for an ultra-marathon, you are pushing your body to the edge where injuries of one sort or another are inevitably going to crop up. You have to do your best to diagnose their severity, monitor their progression and make adjustments to the training program as necessary to ensure that the long-term goal is not compromised. The same holds true for retirement planning, where nobody goes 30 or 40 years without something unexpected occurring,” Smith said.

And how he and his team plan to relax after the long, long run?

“We’ll celebrate our accomplishment on National 401(k) Day by having a small celebration with the team from Junior Achievement. I’ll probably take the weekend off from running as well, but then it will be time to get back on the horse as I have a marathon in October for which I’ll need to start preparing,” Smith said.

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