I’m Ed LaFave and early in my career as a software engineer I was taken advantage of several times by financial institutions. Eventually enough was enough and I learned how to invest on my own. I’ve been paying it forward by spreading that knowledge ever since.
My wife works for OCPS and we went through the nightmare of setting up her 403b in March of 2017. We’re now committed to preventing OCPS employees from being victimized by that same process.
Our Experience Setting Up an OCPS 403b
It took me several days of focused effort and countless phone calls before I identified and understood every 403b plan offered by the many pre-selected financial institutions. OCPS provided no information or support during this process. When I called these institutions to clarify their offerings I was met with fast-talking, deceptive, and sometimes ill-informed sales reps. The reps supplied confusion, fear, and appeals to authority before steering me towards excessively expensive plans.
At the time Security Benefit’s NEA DirectInvest was the only good 403b plan and PlanMember Services’ Direct Program was the only mediocre 457b plan. Every other plan severely cut into investment returns due to excessive fees.
We submitted the necessary paperwork to enroll in Security Benefit’s NEA DirectInvest 403b. OCPS Retirement Services denied our paperwork because it lacked an adviser’s signature, which they insisted was required for our self-directed plan.
The adviser met with my wife and enrolled her in a different, excessively expensive plan without my wife realizing what happened. It is only when she came home and started using terms that weren’t appropriate for NEA DirectInvest that I realized what happened.
The adviser promptly canceled the enrollment paperwork she completed but couldn’t help us enroll in NEA DirectInvest. We assumed OCPS Retirement Services made an honest mistake but when we called them…
- They explicitly, forcefully, and incorrectly insisted that NEA DirectInvest wasn’t a valid option.
- They refused to provide any documentation specifying valid 403b plans beyond the names of the many pre-selected financial institutions.
- They never initiated an effort to research NEA DirectInvest or explain why we weren’t being allowed to enroll in it.
- They focused on pushing us towards expensive 403b plans that weren’t in our best interest.
I spent countless hours on the phone with OCPS Retirement Services, Security Benefit, TSA Consulting Group, Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, and other organizations trying to convince OCPS Retirement Services of their error. The issue wasn’t resolved until I found somebody who was willing to call OCPS Retirement Services on my behalf and convince them of their error. Only then were we allowed to enroll in NEA DirectInvest.