The DATAIR News


Previous Issues

Spring 1997

In this issue...

From the Top

By Aaron Venouziou

Welcome to 1997, to you as you cope with the many items Congress, IRS and DOL added to your to-do list during 1996. That means new items on our lists, too, since our job is to help you do your best for your "clients." Whether your client is an employer or your own firm’s management and employees, our job is to help YOU.

To do our job, naturally, we updated our software to reflect the Small Business Job Protection Act and other changes. To do this job well, though, we’ve added to our services and added to staff.

We hope that you will join us for the User Group Meetings, to be held in conjunction with NIPA’s conference in May and ASPA’s Regional Conferences in June and July. We’ll be showcasing the changes we are making to our systems in response to

If you can't make it to ASPA, perhaps you’ll join us for an intensive discussion of these current events in Atlanta or Baltimore. These half-day sessions are part of our expanded educational services. Join us to discuss "why" before you use our software to do "what."

We are happy to announce recent additions to our staff. On page 4, you will find your introduction to new sales, support, and program development staff. Each new face represents the potential for improvement in our service to you. Please let us know how we are doing.

DATAIR Profile

By Judith Ringlein-Dunn

Cindi Knox celebrated her sixth anniversary as a DATAIR employee last year. As she has helped so many for so long, Cindi is this issue’s Profile.

Cindi is one of the programmers for the Pension Reporter system, the Pension system’s Report Writer, and the Data Import Assistant. And, she is the author of the ever-popular Pension system utility, SSRENUM.

In a pinch (and she’s fairly bruised from time to time), Cindi provides technical customer support for the products she’s helped develop. Also, she is the SYSOP for our BBS (electronic Bulletin Board System), a role that will change dramatically as we switch to Internet access.

We thank a high school guidance counselor for suggesting that Cindi consider an engineering-related career. That led to a programming course, followed by one on electronics. Along the way to DATAIR, Cindi fixed video arcade games in Alaska and was the service manager in a local computer repair depot.

Cindi is an amateur singer and song writer. If you listen carefully after hours, you might hear her playing an original composition on her guitar. One of her goals is to perform during the "open mike" session of the 1997 National Women’s Music Festival. Cindi also enjoys water-skiing, camping and freshwater tropical fish (no—to keep—not to eat).

What’s notable about DATAIR, Cindi? "It is nice to be able to decorate an office the way I like. You can make a space that is comfortable, that feels like it is yours. This is the first place where I could have a fish tank or hang posters on the wall."

Here’s to the next six years! Thanks, Cindi.

Solutions in Action

Welcome to Solutions in Action-a new column that will feature YOU, a DATAIR user and how you ‘creatively’ use DATAIR’s software to solve your pension and benefits-related problems.

When we use your solution(s), you will receive credit which may be applied toward monthly maintenance or a future software license. Plus... you and your company will be profiled in the next issue of Solutions In Action.

We invite you to submit your solution(s) via mail, e-mail or fax to:

Mail: DATAIR Employee Benefit Systems, Inc.
Attn: Solutions in Action, 735 North Cass
Avenue, Westmont, IL 60559-1100

E-mail: info@datair.com
Fax: (630) 325-2660

Say it With a Graph - Microsoft Excel Graphing File for Plan Comparison

A picture is worth a thousand words! If you have Microsoft Excel and DATAIR’s Defined Contribution System, try illustrating the plan comparison data in a graph. Here’s a step-by-step procedure (which is also available from HELP in the DC System):

1. DCPGRAPH.XLS is a Microsoft Excel workbook that creates a graph based on information from Plan Comparison. (DCPGRAPH.XLS can be found in your DC System program directory).

2. To use DCPGRAPH.XLS, run Plan Comparison (cycle C) with option 3. Note the name of the file being created. Then open Excel. In Excel, open the DCPGRAPH.XLS file.

3. When asked for a filename, use the filename created by Plan Comparison. You should get a graph comparing contributions for highly compensated employees vs. non-highly compensated employees across the selected plans.

Experiment with this feature, as a graph is much more effective than just words!

Year 2000 - The Clock is Ticking

By Gary R. Saake

The mainstream press has been printing quite a number articles of late about how many software products and even computers themselves will come to screeching halt come January 1, 2000. To be sure, the Y2K issue, as it’s known in computereese, is an enormous problem worthy of attention by the people responsible for keeping computers and software ticking along well into the next millennium.

The problems falls into two categories. The first is the hardware itself. The clock chips which keep track of the current date and time in some older personal computers aren’t able to deal with the year 2000 and beyond. Due to the rapid advances in technology, these machines will be all but obsolete by the year 2000, so this isn’t much of an issue. The simple solution, if you have one of these dinosaurs, is to plan to replace it before it becomes a problem.

The second, much more complex, problem is software. When the press mentions the billions of dollars that it’s going to cost to solve Y2K issues, for the most part, they are talking about legacy software on mainframe computers. That is, software that was written 20 or even 30 years ago… like, for instance, the software the IRS uses to record every detail of our financial lives. The time and cost of going through every function of these very complex applications to find out what the effects of year 2000 will be is enormous. In some cases, completely rewriting the software with 4-digit years proves to be cheaper than to find and fix problems in existing systems. Actually, government agencies have had a plan to review all systems for quite some time now, and many agencies are well into the process although plans are that final implementation is not required until November 1, 1999—not much room for error. Some agencies, including the SSA, have completed their review. That’s good news for the 10’s of millions of people who receive social security checks each month. (We can only hope that the politicians are as resourceful in keeping social security solvent so those checks won’t bounce.)

So, by now, you’re probably asking yourself… "So what about my DATAIR software? Is it going to work?". It’s a question we are getting with increased frequency. We want to reassure you that there’s not too much to be worried about because we’ve had to deal with multi-century issues since the software was first developed, so we’re a few steps ahead to begin with.

For example, right now, an employee could have been born in the 1800’s or 1900’s and could have a retirement date in the 1900’s or 2000’s. We deal with these multi-century issues through special "smart-date" functions that look at the date and its relationship to other dates. In essence, we create dynamic date ranges for each type of date so that we can do date calculations accurately even when multiple centuries are involved.

Throughout the next year, we’ll be doing a comprehensive review of each system and making changes where necessary so that there aren’t any surprises ahead. Release 3.01 (December 1996) of the Pension System included changes to handle plan years beyond the year 2000. Our Windows software currently under development will use full 4-digit years so that, even without the "smart-date" functions, they will be able to deal with dates correctly when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2000… or even 3000, 4000, or 5000. One can only wonder what pensions will be like in the year 5000.

We complied a list of the most frequently asked questions on a few of our systems, and here’s some of what we (or you) came up with…

Frequently Asked Questions

Retirement Plan Document System

Q . How do I do a SIMPLE plan?

A . With Rev. Proc. 97-9, the IRS issued a Model Amendment to add SIMPLE provisions to an "ordinary" 401(k) plan. We'll be adding that Model Amendment, and others, to RDS beginning with Release 1.36. The Model Amendment must be executed by July 1, 1997 for a SIMPLE 401(k) plan effective January 1, 1997. (RDS does not include SIMPLE IRA or SEP documents.)

Q. Why didn't I get all 3 Model Amendments?

A . Release 1.35(a) of RDS will automatically print the 401(a)(17) Compensation limit and the 401(a)(31) Direct Rollover Model Amendments for all types of plans. The Model Amendment for the Waiver of the 30-day notice only applies to plans NOT subject to the Joint and Survivor rules. You would only see 3 Model Amendments for Profit Sharing and 401(k)/CODA plans that do NOT provide for a life or life and period certain annuity.

Future releases will include additional Model Amendments relating to the Small Business Job Protection Act and other recent guidance. We anticipate offering documents that incorporate all the changes since 1992, during 1998.

Cafeteria Plan Document and FlexPlus/Cafeteria Administration System

Q. Can (an S-Corp, a governmental entity, a church, etc.) have a cafeteria plan?

A. Any employer can sponsor a cafeteria, Sec. 125 plan. However, self-employed individuals including partners in a Partnership and more than 2% owner in an S-Corp cannot participate in the cafeteria plan. Only employees may participate in cafeteria plans. If a governmental or church-related entity sponsors a cafeteria plan, please remember to file Form 5500 or 5500 c/r for those plans, too. EVERY cafeteria plan has to file a Form 5500 series annual report.

Q. Does a controlled group have to offer the cafeteria plan to everyone?

A . Not necessarily. However, cafeteria plans cannot discriminate in favor of Highly Compensated Employees. If the same cafeteria plan benefits aren't available to all employees of the employer, the general nondiscrimination test under Sec. 125 will tell you if the plan design is discriminatory. You will perform that test on a controlled group basis, though, so that the employees that have different (or no) benefits under the cafeteria plan are tested as "not benefiting."

Qualified Plan Distribution System

Q. Why can't I match the life expectancy on the QPDS reports?

A. Please remember that if the beneficiary is NOT the spouse, the incidental death benefit rules apply. (also referred to as MDIB or minimum distribution incidental benefit) In that situation the maximum age difference between the participant and the beneficiary is 10 years. Example: participant age 72, beneficiary age 50. If the beneficiary is the spouse, the joint life expectancy is 33.8. If the beneficiary is not the spouse, the joint life expectancy is 24.4, for minimum distribution purposes.

Going, Going, Gone

By Gary R. Saake

In the last issue of the DATAIR News, we said that we were going to discontinue our BBS in favor of our Internet site. Well, the time has come. Effective April 1, 1997 the DATAIR Support BBS will be officially discontinued. While it’s faithfully handled thousands of calls, and hundreds of file uploads and downloads since it first went online in January 1991, the widespread acceptance and use of the Internet has turned the BBS into somewhat of a dinosaur.

If you’ve been a long-time user of the BBS, we encourage you to sign up with an Internet service provider so that you may continue to benefit from being able to transfer data files, get the latest software updates, and request support electronically. In addition you’ll have access to a wealth of new services we’re providing through our web site, as well as be able to access all the other resources for pension and benefit professionals that are on the Web. If you’ve never used the BBS, we also encourage you to get on the Internet and start reaping its many benefits now.

Getting on-line with an Internet Service Provider is quick and easy, and it will likely be cheaper than making even a couple long-distance calls to our BBS.

DATAIR will be focusing a substantial amount of resources to bringing you new and enhanced support services via the Internet, and we strongly encourage you to take advantage of them. Your competitors—other DATAIR users, which are already using the Internet to request support, download updates, and transfer plan files are a step ahead of you. Don’t get left behind!

Our Web address is http://www.datair.com

Did You Know...

By Gary R. Saake

We’re frequently asked how data can be exported from our Pension System or Cafeteria System to various file formats so that it can be used by other software products, such as a spreadsheet, to do advanced analysis of the data. The first thought that may come to mind is Report Writer. There is another option that is even more versatile that you might not have considered—DATAIR’s Data Entry & Review Module.

One of Data Entry’s many unique, yet lesser known, talents is its ability to export data into various formats such as fixed-length records, ASCII records terminated by carriage return/line feeds, comma delimited, and Lotus WKS spreadsheet. Of course, the native format Data Entry uses is dBase-compatible DBF files, so that’s available to you also. Through one of these formats you’ll be able to import the information into just about any DOS or Windows application.

Not only will Data Entry extract the data for you to these various formats, but it will also produce an "Export Report" that lists the format of the export file, details how the fields are laid-out, and gives other information that is invaluable when you, or someone else, imports it into another software application.

To export data using Data Entry all you need to do is either use one of the sample forms that contains the data fields your interested in extracting, or create or modify your own form just as you would if you were going to do if you were using Data Entry normally. After using the administration system’s "Extract to Data Entry" function, simply select "Export" on the File Menu in Data Entry; select the data file which you wish to export; and select one of the available formats—that’s all there is to it. Couldn’t get much easier!

If your clients need the ability to export the data they enter into Data Entry, you have the option of allowing them to use this feature at their location too.

Detailed information on using this feature is in both the manual and in the <F1> on-line help for the Data Entry & Review Module.

Don’t have our Data Entry module and would like more information about it? Just give your DATAIR Sales Representative a call and they will be happy to send you literature and a demo.

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