Edelman launches initiative to get D.C. to focus on retirement security

The investment adviser has joined forces with a Washington think tank, but their effort must overcome partisan gridlock

Feb 1, 2018 @ 2:09 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

A prominent investment adviser and a Washington think tank are joining forces to try to get Congress to address policies that help people save for retirement and live comfortably in retirement.

Ric Edelman, founder and executive chairman of Edelman Financial Services, and the Bipartisan Policy Center on Thursday launched "Funding Our Future: A Campaign for America's Retirement Security."

The effort will focus on making retirement saving easier, promoting lifetime income and reforming Social Security.

Mr. Edelman said that he was surprised that Social Security didn't come up in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The first step in the initiative he's helping lead is to get consumers to call lawmakers to encourage them to talk about the threats to retirement security.

"Without conversation and debate, an effective solution will never be attained," Mr. Edelman said. "The clock is ticking."

Last year, Mr. Edelman rolled out a Social Security reform proposal at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

The partners in the initiative all have their own ideas on how to tackle the retirement-security problem, but the first priority is to give lawmakers political cover to take it on.

"Our goal collectively is to get Congress to start talking about this," Mr. Edelman said.

Mr. Edelman, whose practice is based in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, faces challenges familiar to anyone trying to advocate policy changes — ongoing political gridlock in the capital.

"As meritorious as this project is, I don't think one think tank can get a law passed," said Duane Thompson, senior policy analyst at Fi360, a fiduciary training and accreditation firm. "I don't see much of anything happening in the near term unless we have a financial crisis like we had 10 years ago."

That's not going to keeping interested parties from trying to get Congress' attention on retirement issues. Also on Thursday, TIAA promoted a recent white paper aimed in part at lawmakers that advocates policies that facilitate the use of annuities for retirement.

"Absent clearer regulations insulating plan sponsors from lawsuits, employers will continue to feel reluctance to add annuities to their plans," the TIAA paper states. "There is an obvious solution to the guarantee gap: in-plan annuities must play a central role in retirement savings."

Retirement nest eggs did get high-profile attention in Washington when President Donald J. Trump said during his State of the Union speech Tuesday that the growing economy has been good for 401(k) plans.

The Insured Retirement Institute used the opening to promote legislation recently introduced by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass. and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, that would establish automatic individual retirement accounts at small businesses that don't currently offer retirement plans.

"It is time to support passing the Automatic Retirement Plans Act so more workers can share in the market gains & save for retirement," IRI wrote in a Tweet during Mr. Trump's remarks.

A previous version of Mr. Neal's bill failed to attract Republican support, and the current measure does not yet have any co-sponsors.

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