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Summary Plan Description: what is it? And what do plan sponsors need to know?

According to the Department of Labor, the Summary Plan Description (SPD) is one of the most important documents participants are entitled to receive automatically when becoming a participant of an ERISA covered retirement plan.

This is another legal obligation for the plan administrator—you must provide the Summary Plan Description to participants, free of charge. The SPD provides crucial plan information to participants, laying out important details related to what’s provided in the plan, how it operates, and when employees become eligible to participate. More specifically, the SPD is where employees go to learn things like:

  • how service and benefits are calculated;
  • when the benefits become vested; and
  • when and in what form benefits are paid.

If any changes are made to your plan, participants must be informed, either through a revised Summary Plan Description, or in the form of a separate document called a Summary of Material Modifications. If you choose to send out an SMM, it too must be distributed to participants free of charge.

Feel free to contact us at  with any questions about your plan’s SPD, Investment Policy Statement, or any other crucial plan document that may be concerning you. You are also welcome to call at 800.525.9295.

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