Unlocking Success: The Benefits of Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plans
for Business Owners and High-Performing Employees
By: Rodd R. Miller, CFP®
In the competitive landscape of business, attracting and retaining top talent is crucial for sustained success. For business owners and high-performing employees alike, a Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation plan can be a powerful tool that not only benefits the company but also provides valuable advantages for individuals.
A Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation (“NQDC”) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan that allows employees to defer a portion of their compensation until a later date, typically retirement. Unlike qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)s or IRAs, which are subject to strict IRS regulations and must meet certain eligibility requirements, NQDC plans do not have to adhere to the same rules and are not subject to ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) regulations.
In an NQDC plan, eligible employees can elect to defer a portion of their salary, bonuses, or other forms of compensation into the plan, thereby reducing their current taxable income. These deferred amounts are set aside in a separate account and typically grow tax-deferred until distributed to the employee in the future.
One of the key features of NQDC plans is their flexibility. Unlike qualified plans, which are subject to contribution limits and distribution restrictions, NQDC plans are customizable to meet the specific needs and objectives of both the employer and the employees. For example, employers may offer NQDC plans as an additional benefit to highly compensated employees who have already maxed out contributions to qualified plans. Employer deferrals into the NQDC plan can include vesting schedules to promote longevity of employment.
It is important to note that because NQDC plans are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as qualified plans, they typically do not offer the same level of protection for employees. For example, funds in an NQDC plan are generally considered assets of the employer and may be subject to creditors' claims in the event of bankruptcy.
Why are NQDC plans increasingly talked about in today's corporate world? Because your most valuable assets walk out the door every night. To focus on keeping the right people in the organization, successful businesses focus on the “3 R’s” -Recruit, Retain, Retire.
Recruiting Top Employees:
In the quest to assemble a stellar team, offering a Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation plan can be a difference maker. High-performing professionals are not only seeking competitive salaries but also comprehensive benefits packages that include long-term financial security. NQDC plans allow businesses to stand out by providing an additional avenue for employees to save for retirement, demonstrating a commitment to their financial well-being beyond just their immediate compensation. This can significantly enhance a company's appeal to top-tier talent, making it a magnet for skilled individuals who are looking for more than just a job—they are seeking a long-term partnership with an employer who values their future. Key employees understand the value of the company’s bottom line, as well as looking for ways they can share in its success.
Retaining Key Employees:
Once a company has attracted top talent, the next challenge is retaining them for the long haul. NQDC plans offer a powerful retention tool by incentivizing employees to stay with the company over the long term. By deferring a portion of their compensation into the plan, employees effectively tie their financial future to the success of the company, fostering a deeper sense of loyalty and commitment. Moreover, many NQDC plans include vesting schedules that reward employees for their continued service, further reinforcing their dedication to the organization. This sense of loyalty can be invaluable in retaining key personnel, reducing turnover costs, and maintaining continuity in leadership and expertise within the company.
Retirement with a Healthy Nest Egg:
One of the most compelling features of a Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation plan is its ability to help employees retire with a healthy nest egg. By deferring a portion of their compensation into the plan, employees can accumulate significant savings over time, supplementing their traditional retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs. This additional source of retirement income can provide greater financial security in retirement, allowing employees to maintain their desired standard of living and pursue their post-career aspirations with confidence. The focus on retirement for the employees is a forward-looking planning item that key employees can appreciate. It becomes more than a job; it is a partnership with a vested mutual interest in success.
Overall, NQDC plans can be a valuable tool for employers looking to attract and retain top talent by offering additional retirement savings options, and for employees seeking to supplement their retirement income and achieve their long-term financial goals. However, both employers and employees should carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of NQDC plans and consult with financial and legal advisors before participating.