Congress mulls major 401(k) changes

Oct 7, 2008 @ 5:18 pm

By Sara Hansard

A wide range of sweeping changes to the 401(k) system were proposed Tuesday at a hearing on how the market crisis has devastated retirement savings plans.

Chief among them was eliminating $80 billion in tax savings for higher-income people enrolled in 401(k) retirement savings plans.

This was suggested by the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

“With respect to the 401(k), it appears to be a plan that is not really well-devised for the changes in the market,” Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said.

“We’ve invested $80 billion into subsidizing this activity,” he said, referring to tax breaks allowed for 401(k) contributions and savings.

With savings rates going down, “what do we have to start to think about in Congress of whether or not we want to continue and invest that $80 billion for a policy that is not generating what we … say it should?” Mr. Miller said.

Congress should let workers trade their 401(k) assets for guaranteed retirement accounts made up of government bonds, suggested Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor at The New School for Social Research in New York.

When workers collected Social Security, the guaranteed retirement account would pay an inflation-adjusted annuity under her plan.

“The way the government now encourages 401(k) plans is to spend $80 billion in tax breaks,” which goes to the highest-income earners, Ms. Ghilarducci said.

That simply results in transferring money from taxed savings accounts to untaxed accounts, she said.

“If we implement automatic [individual retirement accounts] or if we expand the 401(k) system, all we’re doing is adding to this inefficiency,” Ms. Ghilarducci said.

Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., raised the issue of which investment advisers are allowed to offer workers investment advice.

The Department of Labor is considering “loopholes” that would allow advisers to offer “conflicted investment advice if the advisers work for subsidiaries of financial services companies that sell the investments,” he said.

With American workers facing $2 trillion in losses from retirement plans over the past year and Democrats expected to gain seats in the House and the Senate, actions being contemplated by the committee are an important harbinger of what could come out of Congress next year.

0
Comments

What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Featured video

INTV

What's behind the TCA, ETrade deal?

Deputy editor Bob Hordt talks with senior columnist Jeff Benjamin about what each party in the recent acquisition stands to gain by joining forces.

Latest news & opinion

Cambridge Investment Research bags mid-sized broker-dealer

Broker Dealer Financial Services, an IBD with 150 reps and advisers, and $3.5 billion in assets, will become a Cambridge OSJ.

HighTower on prowl for new CEO, Weissbluth to become chairman

Move is latest in Chicago-based RIA consolidator's effort to expand senior leadership team.

What's in a name? For TCA by ETrade, everything

Trust Company of America is gone, and there's big buzz over the name change. But turning the custodian into an industry powerhouse will take a lot longer — if it happens at all.

When it comes to regulating AI in financial services, murky waters are ahead

Laws are unclear on how the technology fits in with compliance.

As Ameriprise case shows, firms on hook when brokers go bad ​

The SEC will collect $4.5 million from the brokerage firm for failing to supervise brokers who were ripping off clients.

X

Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting investmentnews.com? It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist investmentnews.com

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.

X

Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print