As the tax reform conversation gained steam in October, some lawmakers began discussing limits on individual 401(k) deductions as a way to raise government revenues.
At Vestwell, we were concerned about this development, given that Americans are already not saving enough for retirement.
The proposed legislation would worsen the problem known as the retirement savings gap, which is the difference between a person’s income and actual expenses during retirement.
The retirement gap threatens the long-term financial security of nearly all Americans, outside of what formal lobbying committees say.
That’s why we traveled to Washington D.C. to speak with representatives about this savings crisis.
Along with our Special SEC Adviser and Chief Compliance Officer, Mike Shuckerow, and Special ERISA Adviser, Peter Kennedy, the Vestwell team met with 22 Senators, Congressional House members and their staff within the banking, finance, and technology committees.
Our goal was to educate the representatives on the ways that we can work together to help close the retirement gap.
The statistics are staggering; only 8% of people in all working households have enough saved for retirement, given their ages and income.
The median retirement savings for individuals aged 25 to 64 is shockingly low at only $3,000, and a mere $12,000 for those nearing retirement aged 55 to 64.
We already know that 75% of Americans rely on defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s, as their only sources of invested assets.
Social security is also an elephant in the room that no one is addressing; its uncertain future places even more importance on saving and investing during one’s working years.
During my time in D.C., I underlined the importance of 401(k) plans to address savings deficiencies.
I also talked about the key role that financial advisors, empowered by technology, play in the administration of and access to retirement plans.
This is revolutionizing the way plans are administered today, as well as providing access and opportunities for companies who previously did not offer a 401(k) or 403(b) plan to their employees. In fact, up to 90% of plans with less than $50 million AUM are managed by financial professionals.
What’s more, according to the Department of Labor & Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 500,000 companies in America do not offer retirement plans for principals and employees.
Fortunately, with technology, financial advisors are paving the way for SMBs to help their employees and principals save for retirement.
Finally, we discussed the long-term pitfalls of the trend toward “Rothification,” which replaces tax-deferred 401(k) plans with accounts funded by after-tax money.
Moving tax revenue up within the 10-year budget window via a Roth-type account would end up further widening the savings shortfall across the hard working Americans that need the tax benefit most to retire securely.
Our goal was not to lobby for 401(k)s, but rather to remind lawmakers about the significant impact these proposed changes would have in further weakening American retirement readiness.
Since my trip, I’ve continued to communicate with lawmakers and their staffers about these issues.
We have even invited them to meet us in our New York offices so that they can learn more about what Vestwell is doing.
Congressman Ted Budd, R-NC, took us up on the offer. The passion that Congressman Budd and his Chief of Staff showed us toward helping businesses, as well as learning more about how Vestwell services the retirement landscape, was truly invigorating.
On a personal level, I found it reassuring that our elected officials see saving for retirement as a non-partisan concern. Everyone I talked to was very willing to help others. They were ready to think deeply about the issues we raised and engage with us and others, to create solutions.
Our government is not just listening, they are acting. Vestwell is mobilizing financial advisors with technology to propel retirement savings forward, and we remain hopeful the regulators remain informed and are on a path to help.
I’m excited about the potential for change and proud of our role in it.
Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and the warmest wishes for a happy New Year!