Fribble How the Grinch Stole the 403(b)

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By Dan Otter (
December 13, 2000

Every 403(b) investor liked no-load mutual funds a lot...
But the Grinch,
Who served as benefits director,
Did NOT!
The Grinch hated no-load mutual funds! To him they amounted to treason!
Now please don't ask us why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his brain was two sizes too small.
But, whatever the reason,
His shoes or his brain,
It was 403(b) investors who were feeling the pain.
Most of whom were stuck with an awful annuity,
And as financial experts will tell you, these are pretty pooey.
Even most variable annuities really aren't great.
They are chock full of fees and wrapped up in an insurance crate.
Of concern to the Grinch, however, was the growing reform movement.
403(b) investors were finally demanding improvement.
This turn of events was nothing short of stunning.
Said the Grinch with a snicker: "I must find some way to stop no-load
mutual funds from coming."
Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!
He would force vendors to sign a Hold Harmless Agreement.
For he knew the mutual fund industry would look at this with
"Pooh-Pooh to 403(b) investors," he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
"They are finding out now that no-load mutual funds aren't coming."
"They are just waking up! I know just what they will do!
"Their mouths will hang open for a minute or two,
"Then the 403(b) investors will all cry BOO-HOO!
"That's a noise," grinned the Grinch,
"That I simply must hear!"
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear...
But wouldn't you know it? He wasn't right.
Many 403(b) investors went to the Web, and found a wise site.
They also formed 403(b) clubs and learned from one another.
And things started to happen, and did they, oh, brother.
Articles were written in more than one magazine,
exposing the status quo as just obscene.
Every wise 403(b) investor, the tall and the small,
were demanding change to benefit all.
The Grinch hadn't stopped change from coming.
He had to face facts it was up and running.
Is everything now perfect? Of course it is not.
There is more to be done; yes quite a lot.
To the Grinches out there who haven't wised up yet:
changes are coming on -- that you can bet.

If needed:
Dan Otter is a Southern California based teacher and writer. He also runs a
403(b) advocacy website called, which is dedicated to educating
educators and other non-profit workers about the 403(b). He can be reached