A Consumer Agenda for Retirement Security
The U.S. private retirement system is unraveling. Hundreds of companies have frozen, terminated, or otherwise cut back on pensions for rank-and-file workers. The majority of workplace retirement plans have become savings accounts that unrealistically place the risk and responsibility for investing and managing retirement savings onto busy and often ill-prepared workers. And, even before the recent financial meltdown, the retirement savings rate of American workers had stagnated, despite incentives designed to increase participation.
To address these and other issues, the Pension Rights Center has prepared the below Consumer Agenda for Retirement Security.
Developing new retirement plans
For employees who do not have workplace retirement plans we are –
Supporting independently-trusteed retirement funds that share risks among employees and retirees and provide lifetime benefits; and
- Promoting new retirement savings arrangements administered by state retirement systems that provide benefits for private-sector workers.
Preserving retirees’ pensions
For retirees now receiving pensions we are –
- Urging members of Congress to reverse legislation that allows trustees of financially-troubled multiemployer plans to reduce retirees’ benefits;
- Calling for protections when companies seek to shift retirement risks to pensioners by offering them lump-sum buyouts or life insurance annuities;
- Working to stop religiously-affiliated nonprofits from denying retirees pension insurance protection by claiming “church plan” status; and
- Seeking an end to government agency rules that allow plans to recover overpayments from retirees that were the result of plan mistakes.
Improving retirement savings plans
For employees participating in retirement savings plans we are –
- Advocating for a strong Department of Labor rule to ensure that brokers who give advice on 401(k) and IRA investments act in the interests of employees rather than in their own self-interest;
- Supporting measures that would tell 401(k) participants how much their account balances would buy if converted to monthly lifetime payments;
- Encouraging policymakers to expand the Saver’s Credit for low-income workers and make it “refundable” for those who do not pay taxes; and
- Promoting measures to simplify SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) rules, and allow employees to match their employers’ contributions.
Protecting workers’ retirement rights
For retirees seeking to obtain the benefits they have earned we are –
- Working to expand the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Pension Counseling and Information Program beyond the 30 states now covered;
- Encouraging the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to establish a “Lost Pension Plan Registry” so that retirees can locate their retirement plans;
- Seeking the establishment of an Office of Participant Advocate in the Internal Revenue Service to advocate for retirement plan participants; and
- Urging the Labor Department to issue rules clarifying that employees can rely on their summary plan booklets and individual benefit statements.
Print the Consumer Agenda for Retirement Security [PDF].
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PensionHelp America connects people who need help with their pension, 401(k), and other retirement plans with the pension counseling projects, legal services providers, and government agencies that can help answer their questions. Visit www.pensionhelp.org.
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Retirement USA is a national initiative that is working for a new retirement system that, along with Social Security, will provide universal, secure, and adequate income for future retirees. Visit the website.