As we’ve documented before, the Trump administration has taken multiple actions that will weaken the retirement security of working families. From attacking the pensions of federal employees to hindering the work of states to enact Secure Choice savings programs, the administration has demonstrated that it cares more about the interests of Wall Street than of hard-working Americans. The administration’s latest move is to further delay implementation of the conflict of interest rule, also known as the fiduciary rule. According to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), this additional delay would cost those saving for retirement $10.9 billion over 30 years.
The idea behind the fiduciary rule is simple: it requires that financial advisors act in the best interests of their clients, rather than promoting expensive financial products that make money for them, but don’t help their clients. In the financial industry, acting in your client’s best interest is called the fiduciary standard, hence the name of the rule. The fiduciary rule was finalized during the Obama administration, but was not yet implemented. The Trump administration has already delayed implementation of the rule once to January 1st, 2018. The Department of Labor is now considering a further 18 month delay.
Economists at EPI calculated that the initial delay of the fiduciary rule will cost retirement savers $7.6 billion over 30 years. The proposed further delay would cost an additional $10.9 billion over 30 years. All together, these delays could cost hard-working Americans more than $18 billion in money that should be going toward their retirement. How exactly do retirement savers lose out? If they are being directed to invest in faulty financial products by financial advisors looking to make a quick buck, then they lose out on years of potential gains in their investments. Due to the power of compound interest, these losses add up over the course of 30 years.
The need for the fiduciary rule and the consequences of its delayed implementation also reveal the weaknesses of 401(k)s and our current retirement savings system. The fiduciary rule is only necessary in the first place because the wide-open nature of 401(k)s leaves individual investors exposed to the shady dealings of greedy financial advisors. If these workers were participating in a defined benefit pension plan, their retirement savings would be professionally managed by pension plan employees. Being forced to manage their own investments, many workers fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes that fail to deliver on their lofty promises.
It is disappointing that once again the Trump administration has chosen to side with wealthy Wall Street financial institutions instead of working families. The sad fate of the fiduciary rule, which should be common sense, is yet another argument for why hard-working Americans need pensions rather than risky and unreliable 401(k)s.