Skip to comments.As 'Retirement Gap' Concerns Reach Across Partisan Divide, Senators Propose Savings Solutions
Posted on 02/14/2014 3:08:26 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
When President Barack Obama introduced a new retirement savings plan during his State of the Union speech last month, the Republican response was uncharacteristically muted. Although Republicans were upset about the presidents new reliance on executive authority to push his agenda, they had few harsh words about the details of the retirement idea.
Dubbed MyRA, Obamas initiative is intended to allow workers who do not have access to other workplace savings plans to open an account overseen by the government that would invest in low-risk Treasury bonds. Its a relatively modest proposal, one that would be entirely voluntary for employers and employees and would only guarantee low returns to minimize risk.
I certainly will look at that, said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., ranking member of the subcommittee on pensions at the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Anything for economic security downstream, I will look at that.
Im almost for anything that would allow people to save more and take care of the future, said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah.
The GOPs reticence is no accident. Even in an era of bitter partisanship, there is agreement among experts on the left and the right that the retirement security of Americans is a pressing issue. Whats more, theres broad agreement on how to fix the problem.
One key solution, many on both sides agree, would be some form of automatic deduction from worker paychecks into a retirement savings account, with workers given the choice of opting out. The idea was featured prominently in a Heritage Foundation report and in a study by the liberal Center for American Progress.
Behavioral economists have long found that workers are much less likely to voluntarily deduct part of their paychecks to finance a retirement account. In workplaces where the employer automatically enrolls new employees in a plan, the pickup rate increases. One study found enrollment in retirement plans grew from 37.4 percent to 85.9 percent after it became mandatory.
That suggests that automatically signing up workers for a retirement savings plan would go a long way toward winnowing the gap between what Americans have saved and what they will need to cover basic expenses in retirement. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, that gap now stands at $4.6 trillion.
Obama has also embraced the idea of mandatory savings and included language in his budget proposals to create automatic individual retirement accounts for people who do not have a work-based retirement plan such as a 401(k). The administrations idea would mandate that employers with more than 10 employees set up IRAs for their workers. The proposal includes tax credits to soften the blow on smaller firms.
Europe Considers Wholesale Savings Confiscation, Enforced Redistribution "......................The solution? "The Commission will ask the bloc's insurance watchdog in the second half of this year for advice on a possible draft law "to mobilize more personal pension savings for long-term financing", the document said."
Mobilize, once again, is a more palatable word than, say, confiscate.
And yet this is precisely what Europe is contemplating:
Banks have complained they are hindered from lending to the economy by post-crisis rules forcing them to hold much larger safety cushions of capital and liquidity.
The document said the "appropriateness" of the EU capital and liquidity rules for long-term financing will be reviewed over the next two years, a process likely to be scrutinized in the United States and elsewhere to head off any risk of EU banks gaining an unfair advantage.
But wait: there's more!
Inspired by the recently introduced "no risk, guaranteed return" collectivized savings instrument in the US better known as MyRA, Europe will also complete a study by the end of this year on the feasibility of introducing an EU savings account, open to individuals whose funds could be pooled and invested in small companies.
Because when corporations refuse to invest money in Capex, who will invest? Why you, dear Europeans. Whether you like it or not.
But wait, there is still more!.........."
Allow??? Is there something now in the law that prevents personal fiscal responsibility?
Any Savings account, ‘retirement’ or otherwise created and guaranteed by government is not worth the paper it’s written on.
It’s a well established ‘principle’ that any actions of a current legislature are not binding upon a future one. That means they can change the rules and take everything you’ve managed to save away from you at a future time.
The way it used to be done was to build up tangible assets, a farm, a business, a factory, whatever that would sustain you in ‘retirement’ and be passed on to your heirs for them to grow or destroy depending upon their capabilities or proclivities.
But government, local, state and federal have managed to destroy that age-old option through taxes in life and taxes in death.
“One key solution, many on both sides agree, would be some form of automatic deduction from worker paychecks into a retirement savings account”
Sounds an awful lot like Social Security. Guess they need to invent a second pyramid scheme since the first isn’t yielding enough anymore.
Warning. Everything these bastards do is about taking money from those who earn it legally and giving it to those who vote for more freebies.
After paying for ObamaCare, who is going to have any money left over to save?
And they excoriated Bush for such a proposal.
Obama proposes the “What’s Yours is Mine” plan to help increase government revenue.
BOTH SIDES ARGREE...
AUTOMATIC SIGN UP... (opt out...uh...not for long)
EMPLOYER SET UP IRA FOR 10 OR MORE...
Why does this become an employer enforced program? Why or what is the employer contribution since they will offer tax credit incentives?
The more I see what they are doing...the more I understand why my CPA said...don’t hire employees. Now I ‘get it.’ Hostile employment environment is an understatement.
The spendthrift, no budget, gimmie more debt ceiling SENATE is going to tell us how to SAVE money???
I have a start: Fire Washington D.C.
Send them all home.
Savings plan? It’s kinda hard to save when you don’t make much to begin with. These congress critters are out of touch with reality.
When the return on bonds and relatively safe assets is below inflation, people are less likely to save. The second retirement gap is even larger - as more money is siphoned away from retirees via low returns and inflation.
“One key solution, many on both sides agree, would be some form of automatic deduction from worker paychecks into a retirement savings account, with workers given the choice of opting out. The idea was featured prominently in a Heritage Foundation report and in a study by the liberal Center for American Progress.
Obama has also embraced the idea of mandatory savings and included language in his budget proposals to create automatic individual retirement accounts “
Wow even the Heritage Foundation is in with this stupidity. Opt out? Is that anything like ‘if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor’? So, let’s see: MANDATORY healthcare MANDATORY retirement savings, MANDATORY savings accounts. Oh and it’ll all be “in a lockbox” as well I’ll bet...
Unions commit $10 billion from pension funds to invest in infrastructure, jobs "In a fairly ironic turn of the tables, union workers will be the job creators investing billions of dollars from pension funds into Americas infrastructure, in some cases, directly, without using Wall Street as a middleman.
The AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers are leading a push for unions to invest billions from their pension funds into infrastructure projects.
It is inspiring to see retirement savings of last generation of workers put to work to create a better economy for next generation, said John Podesta, President, the Center for American Progress, which had a hand in coming up with the initiative. Nothing could better crystallize President Clintons vision than this: rebuilding Americas infrastructure in a way that creates jobs and addresses energy independence,
It is a classic win-win-win: the unions get a better return on assets for their retirement funds, invest in the projects that will put their workers back to work, improve the infrastructure the schools, roads, bridges, tunnels that they use and that improve the communities they live and work in and, one cannot help but believe, become a force in the debate about municipal budgets and taxes in which public employees have become scapegoats.
"Public employees, unions, investment groups and all sorts of other groups are a vital part of a renewed America," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers "Public employees serve the public directly teachers, firefighters. But what we are talking about today is another way that Americas retirees and future retirees can help their country recover economically and invest in projects in a fiduciarily sound way that might never get off the ground because of the economic crisis.
"If [union pension funds] have $3 trillion in assets and America has $2 trillion in need in infrastructure issues, there is a way we can knit this together," she said. "We are so excited about the incredibly important actions of CalPERS [California Public Employees' Retirement System] and CalSTERS [California Teachers Retirement Fund], to commit pension fund capital over $1 billion combined total. they are beginning to figure wise and prudent investments restoring, expanding highways, bridges, ports, retrofitting buildings for greater efficiency, smart energy grid, high speed rail, clean energy sources the kind of infrastructure projects that will make America great."
In January 2011, President Clinton and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka discussed the proposal. Since that time, the AFL-CIO and a broad coalition of employee unions, chaired by the American Federation of Teachers (including SEIU, AFSCME, NEA, the Firefighters and the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department) have worked with state treasurers and individual investment funds affiliated with the labor movement to encourage investments in infrastructure projects.
The concept emerged in June, at the CGI America conference which was dedicated to brainstorming how to create jobs in America, when the AFL-CIO and AFT made a groundbreaking Commitment to Action, developed in collaboration with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and with the Center for American Progress [founder John Podesta] to encourage union pension managers to invest up to $10 billion of working families assets in infrastructure projects.
The commitment was expanded at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative, this September, with two of the nations largest public pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTERS both based in California, allocating more than $1.1 billion towards infrastructure investments, and progress is being made to bring in other unions and state pension managers.
The $1 billion that has already been committed includes $200 million towards energy retrofit projects more than 10 times the original project goal - that will save money on fuel, and also help reduce carbon emissions, and generating jobs.
And the investment commitment comes at a time when corporations are sitting on some $2 trillion in cash, and banks are sitting on another $2 trillion in cash, and the Obama Administration has been hog-tied in its effort to invest in infrastructure.
President Clinton pointed to this problem during the Opening Plenary, when he said, "US corporations have $2 trillion not committed to investment as cash. Banks have more than $2 trillion in cash inaccessible to loans. The system is frozen."
Clinton fairly mocked the banks and the corporate giants for sitting on $2 trillion apiece, rather than invest in infrastructure, clean energy and the technologies that will keep America a leading power in the 21st century, challenging them that they would be left in the dust by the unions, who stand to make a decent rate of return.
And in a kind of swipe at the banks, Clinton pointed to the union pension fund saying, "I hope other retirement systems do it, and sometime later, bankers will realize they should be earning profits too. If they loosened their credit, we would have one million jobs."
Clinton said that for every $1 billion spent on a nuclear plant, it creates 250 jobs; a $1 billion coal plant creates 870 jobs; $1 billion spent in solar creates 1900 jobs; for wind turbines and blades, 3300 jobs, but to retrofit office buildings, 7000 jobs, and to retrofit homes, 8,000 jobs.
And there is a virtually unlimited amount of work that needs to be done: every building, from hospitals to schools to offices to malls need to be made more energy efficient, and then will earn savings from utilities.
This couldnt have come at a better time building infrastructure is the most efficient way to create jobs, said Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO.
With the economic crisis, the debt crisis, woefully the US has slipped us is 16th in world infrastructure commitments. This will help make US more competitive globally.
It is just this kind of public-private partnership that CGI was set up to make and points to the amazing ability of Clinton to bring people together," Podesta said "This was catalyzed by organized labor but not possible without fund managers, elected officials supported by broad range of partners in public and private sectors.. But ultimately, the credit is for Trumka and Weingarten who put their political muscle."
Trumka, whose union federation of 56 national and international unionshas 12 million members, said, "We are committed to work with unions, pension fund managers to invest $10 billion over five years in creating infrastructure."
The AFL-CIO is investing at least $20 million in specific energy retrofits beginning with the AFL CIO headquarters - and to train 40,000 new workers and retrain 100,000 journeymen in green skills.
To date, instead of just $20 million in retrofitting projects, over $200 million in projects have been committed; of the 40,000 workers, 8,500 new workers have been trained, and of the 100,000 workers to be retrained, 43,000 retrained since the AFL-CIO initially made the commitment in June at CGI America.
"We are serious about this, about working together," he said. "This is a great coalition for a good cause: putting Americans back to work.
The funds are being used, creating a return, jobs, and help America become more competitive. We couldnt be prouder of this commitment.
"It's easy to talk about this whats not easy is getting this done," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers "People have been talking about infrastructure for a long time there is a lot of finger-pointing, scapegoating, but what we tried to do is get beyond the background noise theres about $3 trillion in public pension fund assets now. Are there vehicles to use them to create a stronger economy and a stronger society? Thats what CGI helped us convene three months ago, which we are announcing now.
The AFT has been working for over a year with a committee of AFT leaders - many of them trustees of teacher pension plans - in an effort to utilize public pension fund assets in a manner similar to the California public pension funds' investments. That work led to discussions with unions, including SEIU, AFSCME, NEA and IAFF, elected pension fund trustees, investment professionals and others, including members of the Clinton Global Initiative, some of whom were independently working on the same set of issues.
"What we tried to do was bring this all together thats the coalition I am chairing, its not just AFT but firefighters, and others using public funds in a fiduciarily sound way to invest Americas workers money into projects that Americas people need."
CalSTRS sees investing in infrastructure as a way of diversifying its portfolio and getting a good return on retirees money.
One of takeaways from the great capital crisis of a few years ago is that wasnt as diversified as we thought that across asset classes, we were impaired, said Harry Keiley, chair of the Investment Committee for CalSTRS. We needed to do a deeper dive into what does diversification actually mean with CalSTRS. CalSTRS and pension funds largest teachers pension fund with $150 billion in assets needed to do an analysis of risk where risks were within the portfolio, and to extent possible, highlight the risks put focus and time in last couple of years, working with staff, consultants and board to craft policies that are necessary to address the issues of risk and diversification within a massive pension fund.
Keiley said that the fund would allocate 2-3% of its assets about $4 billion over a 3 to 5 year period into infrastructure.
At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of pension fund is to pay the benefit to educators of California who had spent their career in teaching. We had to be mindful: that is the ultimate goal That is the role of our staff: to identify the deals and projects that are first and foremost good investments for the fund.
Secondly, we need to realize that a healthy economy is ultimately good for America and for Americas pension funds economics of pension funds being spent back into the economy creates so much local benefit to communities where defined benefits are being spent.
He said that the fund has Identified $300-600 million that can be invested in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
As deals and opportunities become apparent, it is incumbent upon folks to get before our staff, Keiley said.
This offers a triple bottom line: steady return on investment for California teachers, will put people back to work, help rebuild this country of ours. We can all be very proud of that work, and will do all we can at CalSTRS to make that work.
CalPERS, with 1.6 million public employees, is honored to be part of this effort to put America back to work, said George Diehr, chair of the Investment Committee. Our primary goal is investment returns to support the pensions of our retirees/members but that cant happen without strong economy, stable, longterm jobs investments in infrastructure can help us achieve. We started investing in infrastructure four years ago as an inflation-linked asset class designed to invest in businesses, public and private transportation, ports, energy, water, and communications. In 2011, we increased the target to 2% of fund value ($4.5-$5 billion) and with that, a more strategic plan for the program.
CalPERS currently has $637 million invested, and has earned returns considerably above expectations, Diehr said.
Of the $5 billion committed to infrastructure, between $2-4 billion will be invested in the United States, of which 20%, or $800 million is in California infrastructure projects, over the next three years, he said.
"Our first and foremost priority is to seek investment returns that meet our targeted expected rates of return."
An important element to the action that the labor groups are taking, in addition to establishing funding goals, is to do outreach to state and local governments to explore role that pension systems can play to stimulate infrastructure investment and create financing structures to facilitate the investment.
California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom chided the nation over its falling ranking in the world: we were #1 in infrastructure investment in 1995, now rank 16th, the US `was 1st in broadband, now 15th; and the nation which led the world in air transit now ranks 32nd .
At what point do you reconcile?" he said. "One of the things that brings us enthusiastically to CGI every year is that here, you get in the HOW business attention is focused on moving things in a different direction, not just talking about $2 trillion sitting on sidelines, but what can we do with these $3 trillion?"
And with a comparison of how many jobs are created with the same $1 billion of investment of oil, coal, solar, wind, and retrofiting, he added, "You can go back to old economy from hell, or get into the renewables."
Gina Raimondo, the newly elected State Treasurer of Rhode Island, gave what should be the rationale of other state treasurers: "Unemployment in the labor trades is 30-40-even 50% in Rhode Island. This is real people, some of whom havent worked in a year or more, who will go anywhere for a good job" She contrasts that with the old and deteriorating state buildings that are in need of retrofitting to become more efficient and less polluting and asks why the state can't put these people to work in a way that retrofits buildings, that will ultimately save the state money and which makes money for the pension funds. "The answer is we can."
"I find myself in the unusual position of being both a politician and a fiduciary, as chair of investment committee for Rhode Island's pension fund, the states manager of billions in retirement funds for state and municipal employees. What this is about is finding ways and structures that we can invest in infrastructure, and receiving appropriate risk adjusted rate of return.
"As an elected official, you have to respond to the jobs crisis, the infrastructure crisis, and the energy crisis I believe and am committed to finding a way to accomplish all those goals, and excited to work with all of you."
We wondered whether the novel approach to seeking out infrastructure projects would also produce new investment instruments and cut out Wall Street.
While Harry Keiley, Chair of Investment Committee, CalSTRS said his fund is "not bypassing Wall Street, but looking for opportunities where there is an alignment of interests," George Diehr, Chair of the Investment Committee, CalPERSsaid, "We aretrying to do more direct investment, not relying on Wall Street, so we can lower costs and have better control."
But Keiley added, "We are also looking for financial infrastructure we need to find ways, either leverage or working with municipal bonds or other ways of financing. We have found credit enhancement so we can provide triple AAA credit rating that a project can take advantage of."
"What youre hearing here is that were not waiting," said Randi Weingarten, AFT president. "It's complicated because of the labyrinth of rules and regulations, but what were seeing is a whole bunch of people stepping up to see what kind of assets we can bring to bear to create jobs, infrastructure, in a fiduciarily sound way instead of waiting for others to act."
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
Here’s how Louisiana public employee’s retirement systems, run by their people, made out.
MPERS must eschew vanity, cut golf course losses
Its been coming for years, the only question being how long would it take before the foolish investments of Louisianas Municipal Police Employees Retirement System would implode. The answer is now, and it can join other retirement-related issues that put Louisiana taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars.
The vast majority of municipal police officers statewide participate in MPERS. Until the beginning of the decade, the system was overfunded but stock market difficulties began to erode the value of its holdings. The 2007-08 audit showed the trend has accelerated as almost $200 million alone, or over 9 percent of value, was lost in that time span, with more surely to be revealed in the 2008-09 audit.
While in the overfunded condition in 2002, the Board of Trustees that oversees MPERS made a fateful decision (The Board is comprised of police officials representing chiefs, police retirees, and rank-and-file members, elected by the membership and serving voluntarily, plus ex-oficio members, one from each, of the House and Senate that rarely attend meetings). To diversify the billion-dollar portfolio, they sought to invest in real estate.
Its first purchase turned out to be Olde Oaks Golf Club in Haughton. Almost $11 million has been spent on buying and renovating it after a management company promised an annual 10 percent return on it. Three months after the deal went through, the company defaulted and the Board itself was left with managing the property.
It hasnt done well. Not only did the 10 percent return never materialize, but the course has lost money almost every month since MPERS bought it, even with the contracting of its management to area professional golfer Hal Suttons company. Its value now is estimated at less than $5 million, and it lost almost a half million dollars for the year ending in the middle of 2008.
MPERS also bought Bossier Parishs other troubled golf property, The Club at Stonebridge, with eventual costs going to around $4.4 million. Its now valued at about $3.2 million, and lost over $100,000 for the year ending in the middle of 2008. (Earlier this year it lost out on a bonus, when a deal to lease mineral rights for $2.4 million fell through.)
As if these werent enough, then MPERS had to go very big time. Associated with Sutton again, in 2004 it put up money for development of land in Fredericksburg, TX, securing a line of credit of $30 million. In 2007, it paid this off to its lender accepting a four percent discounted note from the developers for the sum of $24,337,177 and during the next year collected $346,000 in lot sales.
However, the primary lender for the operation which has seen a total from all sources of $73 million, Lehman Brothers which itself went into bankruptcy, has indicated it will foreclose to pay off its creditors. This means MPERS is unlikely to see anything of the remaining balance of just under $24 million. And it gets worse for MPERS. Louisianas Inspector generals office has opened an investigation concerning the courses so if the worst is confirmed perhaps more money has been squandered through illegal activities.
But its worst of all for Louisiana taxpayers as they will have to make up for these losses. By the end of its fiscal year 2008, MPERS was only 87 percent funded and the unfunded accrued liability is predicted to have increased significantly since. This breach, unless some miraculous investment returns manifest, can be repaired only by jacking up municipal contributions (currently at 13.75 percent of salary) which gets passed on to local taxpayers, or by direct appropriation by the Legislature so it gets passed on to all state taxpayers.
Its clear that in the past the MPERS board (once largely composed of Caddo and Bossier Parish active and retired chiefs and officers) made some particularly stupid decisions about golfing real estate (although almost no one from those past boards continues to serve.) Even if the golf holdings represent only about 3 percent of assets in terms of money sunk into them, sensible people should know that kind of investing is tricky and there are plenty of other vehicles for diversification into real estate. Whichever investment adviser that did not strenuously object to these transactions certainly performed a poor fiduciary duty.
MPERS cannot now cut its losses at the Texas development; the least it can do is sell the other courses and invest the proceeds in better things and to stop the hemorrhaging of money. Police retirees and state taxpayers deserve decisions based on competent management, not vanity.
OUTSTANDING MUST READ thread! Thanks to every poster.
If the goal is to create a way for people to save more for retirement all they need to do is increase the dollar limits on an IRA and make everyone eligible regardless of income level.
But, it appears the real goal is to find another way to fund bloated government.
It is inspiring to see retirement savings of last generation of workers put to work to create a better economy for next generation,
I think the Teamsters retire plan did that long ago, it was called building casinos in Las Vegas which the mob controlled.
So I guess we substitute the government for mob today but then it is just a change in terms, the organization is the same, a mob.
The government (mob) does nothing without its vig, or piece of the pie. I asked my dad one time why was bookmaking illegal. His answer, as soon as the government figures out how to make money off it, it will be legal. So, we then had OTB which even the government figured out how to lose money at.
My advice to the “government” just go away.
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