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Hot trends in retirement plans

Making matters worse, employers who wanted to help by providing independent investment advice often shied away because they were required to have third-party advice reviewed by the Department of Labor to ensure the plan provider didn't benefit. That cost time and money.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 created an exemption by which companies were once again free to offer third-party investment advice to workers if certain criteria were met to ensure the advice was objective.

The Labor Department was set to release guidelines early last year, but the Obama administration felt it did not go far enough to protect the interests of employees and sent regulators back to the drawing table.

In late February, the Labor Department proposed new regulation that will expand the availability of quality advice. It can be dispensed in one of two ways: through the use of an unbiased computer model or through an adviser who is compensated on a "level fee" basis, meaning the fees do not vary from one investment to another. The regulation contains safeguards to ensure information is unbiased.

There's no question, the recent bear markets hit retirement savers hard, forcing millions to continue working and many others to return to the workforce after having left.

Yet, the carnage on Wall Street also inspired a litany of new products and policies that are likely to help working Americans feather their nest egg for generations to come.

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