New rule would punish small-business owners

Saturday, September 19, 2015 - 12:00pm

By Colin Holman and Natalie Frazier
The Oklahoman

We are the co-owners of a small business with nine hardworking employees here in Oklahoma City, providing dental care to adults, children and entire families. In this business, nothing is more important than “human capital.” By this, we mean in order to best serve our patients and make them comfortable, we strive to create a family atmosphere, and make our employees feel secure enough to stay with us year after year.  To do this, we need to offer more than just competitive salaries. We need to offer excellent benefits, or we can’t attract or keep the talent that we need.  This is so important that, despite our company’s relatively small size, we went through the expense of organizing a 401(k) plan.  From our viewpoint, this not only good for our staff’s retirement security; it’s also an investment in our company’s future. It just makes good sense.

Here is what doesn’t make sense. The federal government, courtesy of the Department of Labor, is proposing a new rule that would make everything harder for our business and ouremployees to save for retirement. 

First, this rule would cut back on the investment education ouremployees can receive from banks and insurance companies regarding how to invest their money for retirement. The Labor Department seems to think that we need protection from advice because it might not be good advice. Why does that mean we should sacrifice our financial education and get less guidance? Why not enforce the rules that already prohibit providing misleading information?

The Labor Department is also actively discriminating against small businesses. Large businesses can get information from banks and mutual funds about new retirement services and products. Small businesses can’t. The reason given is that small business owners aren’t sophisticated enough to figure out when the bank or mutual fund is just trying to sell its own services and products, rather than trying to help the small business. We think that we can speak for all small businesses on this point. Figuring out if someone is trying to sell us a bad product or service, is how we stay in business. 

Making sure that our employees can save for retirement and achieve financial security is important to us. We care about ouremployees, and we don’t want them to face a retirement that they are not ready for. We want them to get the help they need, and we need to be able to get the information and tools we need to help them. 

The Department of Labor means well. But they are going way too far. Because they are worried about misleading investment education, they would prohibit needed, helpful education.  Because they worry about small businesses getting bad information, they would prohibit us from getting any information at all. This isn’t the right answer.

We plan to write our Congressmen and Senators and ask them to stop this new Labor Department rule and encourage everyone to join us. Don’t let your retirement be put on the line.

Holman and Frazier are owners of Dental Expressions in Oklahoma City.