Don’t Deride DC Dabblers

Ever heard the term DC Dabbler?

A DC Dabbler is an Advisor that goes out and builds a network of relationships.  They serve their network every day, and every 12-18 months someone in their network needs help with a 401(k) plan.

The nick-name Dabbler simply refers to the fact that the Advisor generates revenue from multiple sources other than 401(k) business, and most are not actively prospecting for 401(k) plans.

Are DC Dabblers a fringe group of Advisors?  We don’t think so.  As of January 2019, 95% of Advisors with one of the largest broker dealers in the country are DC Dabblers.  So this is not a fringe group of Advisors to overlook.  DC Dabblers have relationships with decision makers and get the call when a plan is started or improved.

The DC Dabblers we talk to want to be as effective as 401(k) specialists.  They do this by leveraging trusted expert service provider partners like TPAs and recordkeepers to help them build best-in-class solutions for clients.

And this is where we see an opportunity shift in the 401(k) retirement plan market.  Historically service provider partners focused their time, efforts, and resources on 401(k) specialists (5%).  In passing, DC Dabblers were handed a business card and asked to call when they have an opportunity. Tools created to help the 401(k) specialists might be offered but are not what the DC Dabbler needs to move opportunities forward.  So the entire exchange is a low to no-value exchange for everyone, the DC Dabbler, the sales rep and the client they serve.

Service provider partners willing to create and provide the tools DC Dabblers need to close, create or qualify an opportunity, prepare a winning sales presentation or provide service activities for the 401(k) plan will create a new channel of referrals and sales for their product or services.

We applaud the work DC Dabbler Advisors are doing to positively impact employees and employers.  It’s a team effort that serves everyone.

Job well done!

Andy Hudson, Step Strategic Marketing,

Chris Barlow, KnowHow 401(k),

Golden Anniversary of My Paper Route

50 Years Lessons Learned

I’ll never forget the day in 1969 when my Mom told me that she had arranged for me to become a paper boy.  It wasn’t my idea to spend less time playing and become more responsible.  I was eleven and my Mom had five other kids in the house.  She was looking for ways to keep us busy.  When I sold my route two and a half years later I had doubled deliveries and revenue.  I learned many lessons fifty years ago that still apply today.

  • I learned that I had within me the will to succeed. I didn’t know during the first couple of days, and especially the first Sunday if I could physically do the job. After early assistance from my older brother and ongoing encouragement from my parents, I learned that I could do the job by myself.  And from then on it was a matter of continuing to show up. This laid the foundation of all of my future successes.  The feeling of accomplishment and freedom was and still is addictive.
  • Your customers complain if you don’t deliver.
  • If you don’t collect you don’t get paid. And it was OK to be aggressive with late payers.  I paid for the papers before delivering them.  I was going to get my money.
  • Persistence allows you to improve, make work lighter and build a successful business.
  • It’s always good to be the guy with money.

After being a paperboy I went on to be a school janitor, shoe shine boy, dish washer, landscaper, liquidator, Financial Advisor and then a series of 401(k) marketplace sales positions.  All positions taught me lessons but none provided more than my paper route.  Thanks Mom.

Christopher H. Barlow

Managing Director

KnowHow 401(k), LLC

January 2019


©KnowHow 401(k), LLC

Bundled or Unbundled: That is the question

Bundled or Unbundled: That is the question

Employers have a choice when building their company retirement plan and choosing the service providers who will help them manage the plan.  Excluding those services provided by a Financial Advisor, the choice is either to “bundle” the plan document, plan administration, reporting and investments with one provider, or to “unbundle” those services with at least two firms who provide services in those areas.

Many employers appreciate the perceived benefit of a one stop shop, such as with a bundled provider. By virtue of adopting a bundled program, the Financial Advisor will lead the relationship and be the sole local support. In an unbundled program, or team approach, the Financial Advisor will lead the relationship, supported by a team of local specialists who work independently to design the plan, perform the annual testing required, file all government reports, and ensure the plan runs smoothly. By leaning on the compliance consultant, the Financial Advisor and employer shoulder less of the administrative burden and are not required to be experts in 401(k) plans.

Below, we’ve put together a pros & cons chart comparing bundled vs. unbundled plan providers.


Bundle or Unbundle

Many employers do not create an entire product or service but add to, assemble, and support products or services from other organizations. Those employers appreciate the benefits of out-sourcing, so they are comfortable with the unbundled approach. Employers are also used to working with local professionals who specialize in their area of expertise, like a CPA, lawyer or even a uniform supply firm to manage the day-to-day affairs of their business. Having separate service providers who are experts in their field, such as compliance, investments, and record keeping, adds a level of checks and balances to protect the client. This added protection is not present when the plan is bundled and only one company is responsible for all of the work.

Bundle or unbundle?  We believe that specialization of plan operations with an unbundled program can provide efficiency & lasting benefits for the company retirement plan while increasing its effectiveness to achieve the goals of the employer and their employees.

Shannon Edwards & Laina Davidson of TriStar Pension Consulting

Christopher Barlow of KnowHow 401(k)

© All Right Reserved

Let All Save

Let All Save

I believe that personal capital fuels one’s passion to accomplish their goals.  I believe all workers should have access to a payroll deduct retirement plan at their employer to use to accumulate their personal capital.  There should be as few obstacles as possible for workers to save and accumulate their personal capital.

Typically, a for-profit employer will sponsor a retirement plan only after a period of time proving that they have what it takes to stay in business.  And the first employee benefit plan they normally provide is a health plan.  Sponsoring a retirement plan could be years after.  Since 1974 all individuals have had the ability to save through an IRA.  But if we want to maximize the national savings rate, we need to encourage the implementation of workplace payroll deduct retirement plans to best promote workers accumulation of their personal capital.

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey for 2017, of the 116 million full and part-time private sector workers, only approximately 50% of them have access to a workplace retirement plan.  I believe that free markets ultimately fill any void where there is a legitimate need, even overcoming set-backs.  The States of Illinois and Oregon continue to roll-out their programs to fill the void for their citizens that are not covered by a workplace payroll deduct retirement plan.

Illinois Secure Choice

The State of Illinois requires employers with at least 25 employees, that have been in business for two or more years, and who do not currently provide a workplace retirement plan, the option to either adopt a private market retirement plan or automatically enroll their employees into the Secure Choice program. The Secure Choice pilot program began in May of 2018 and full program rollout will begin in November 2018.  An estimated 1.2 million Illinois workers will gain access to a workplace payroll deduct retirement plan through Secure Choice.


All Oregon employers that do not sponsor a workplace retirement plan must facilitate the OregonSaves program covering over 1 million workers.  The program is being rolled-out in phases based on the number of employees at the company without a workplace retirement plan.  Employers with 100 or more employees began to implement the program last November and employers with less than five employees have until May 15, 2020 to enroll in the program.  The Oregon State Treasurer has filed a notice that would create an option under which any Oregon citizen, employed or not, could participate in OregonSaves.

These two state programs provide a way for all of their tax paying citizens to have access to a workplace payroll deduct retirement plan.  I believe they realize that someday many of the participants will have the personal capital to launch a new business and employ fellow citizens.

Chris Barlow

Managing Director

KnowHow 401(k), LLC

September 12th, 2018