We’ve written about the growing retirement security crisis many times. We’re not the only ones to warn about it either. Back in October, the Government Accountability Office issued a significant report on the lack of retirement security for many working families. Last week, the Democratic members of the congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) issued a report titled “Retirement Security in Peril.” The report offers many of the same warnings as previous reports, while also proposing some potential solutions.
The JEC report recognizes the important role that public pensions play in providing retirement security to working families. It specifically highlights the importance of defined benefit pension plans in recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers. As the report notes, these plans help “attract and maintain the best teachers to ensure student success.” The JEC report also notes the number of changes made to state and local pension plans in recent years, changes that have cut benefits and increased costs for workers.
The JEC report focuses broadly on the growing retirement security crisis. The authors observe that half of all working families have almost nothing saved for retirement and that many do not have access to a retirement savings plan through their employer. They point out that as more workers are employed in the gig economy, that decreases access to employer-provided retirement savings plans. They also note the increasing number of older Americans burdened by student loan debt and how this hinders their ability to save for retirement.
The report concludes with several recommendations for strengthening retirement security. The authors discuss the importance of Social Security and the critical role that it plays in providing a secure retirement for many Americans. (Remember, however, that more than a quarter of public employees do not participate in Social Security). The report’s authors also consider several possible ways of increasing access to and participation in retirement plans. These possibilities include: “establishing ‘startup’ tax credits for small businesses that offer retirement plans for the first time, allowing businesses to pool their defined contribution plans, opening up retirement plans to part-time workers, and ensuring that financial advisors protect seniors’ hard-earned investment by putting their clients first [the “fiduciary rule”].”
It remains to be seen whether Congress can muster the political courage to act on any of these ideas, particularly after Congress and the Trump administration took so many actions to weaken retirement security last year.