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A ‘Retirement Ready’ Thanksgiving List

11/19/2018
By Nevin Adams

Thanksgiving has been called a “uniquely American” holiday, and though that is perhaps something of an overstatement, it is unquestionably a special holiday, and one on which it seems appropriate to reflect on all for which we should be thankful.  And so…  

I’m thankful that participants, by and large, continue to hang in there with their commitment to retirement savings, despite lingering economic uncertainty and competing financial priorities, such as rising health care costs and college debt.

I’m thankful that so many employers voluntarily choose to offer a workplace retirement plan — and that so many workers, when given an opportunity to participate, do.

I’m thankful that figuring out ways to expand access to plans remains, even now, a bipartisan concern – even when the ways to address it aren’t always.

I’m thankful that so many employers choose to match contributions or to make profit-sharing contributions (or both), for without those matching dollars, many workers would likely not participate or contribute at their current levels — and they would surely have far less set aside for retirement.

I’m thankful that the vast majority of workers defaulted into retirement savings programs tend to remain there — and that there are mechanisms (automatic enrollment, contribution acceleration and qualified default investment alternatives) in place to help them save and invest better than they might otherwise.

I’m thankful that a growing number of plan sponsors are choosing to improve on those automatic defaults, particularly by raising the starting contribution rates. 

I’m thankful that more plan sponsors are extending those mechanisms to their existing workers as well as new hires.

I’m thankful for qualified default investment alternatives that make it easy for participants to create well-diversified and regularly rebalanced investment portfolios — and for the thoughtful and on-going review of those options by prudent plan fiduciaries.

I’m thankful that, as powerful as those mechanisms are in encouraging positive savings behavior, we continue to look for ways to improve and enhance their influence(s).

I’m thankful that a growing number of policy makers are willing to admit that the “deferred” nature of 401(k) tax preferences are, in fact, different from the permanent forbearance of other tax “preferences” — even if governmental accountants and certain academics remain oblivious.

I’m thankful that the “plot” to kill the 401(k)… (still) hasn’t. Yet.

I’m thankful that those who regulate our industry continue to seek the input of those in the industry — and that so many, particularly those among our membership, take the time and energy to provide that input.

I’m thankful for objective research that validates the positive impact that committed planning and preparation for retirement makes.

I’m thankful for the ability to take to task research that doesn’t live up to those objective standards – and for those who take the time to share those findings.

I’m thankful for all of you who have supported – and I hope benefited from – our various conferences, education programs, and communications throughout the year.

I’m thankful for the team here at the Plan Sponsor Council of America (and the American Retirement Association, generally, as well as all the sister associations), and for the strength, commitment and expanding diversity of our membership. 

I’m thankful to be part of a growing organization in an important industry at a critical time. I’m thankful to be able, in some small way, to make a difference.

But most of all, I’m once again thankful for the unconditional love and patience of my family, the camaraderie of dear friends and colleagues, the opportunity to write and share these thoughts — and for the ongoing support and appreciation of readers like you.

Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

-Nevin E. Adams, JD

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