April 25, 2018

Senators Young and Booker Call for Federal Commission to Review Private Retirement Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) today announced new legislation to establish a federal commission charged with reviewing private retirement benefit programs and submitting a report to Congress on how to improve private retirement security in the United States. The commission would not review the Social Security program, as it is outside of its scope.

America’s private retirement system faces major challenges in the modern economy, and research shows that far too many households are unprepared for retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute predicts that over 40 percent of Gen X-ers will run short of money in retirement, and just under half of all private-sector workers aren’t participating in a retirement savings plan through their employer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Private retirement systems have undergone significant changes over the past 40 years as traditional pensions have become less common. Individuals must now prudently plan for their own retirement security through retirement savings accounts like 401(k) plans. Further, today, our economy is undergoing another shift, as workers are more likely to work in the ‘gig economy,’ defined by serial employment or the contingent workforce. For these workers, it is particularly difficult to save for their own retirement.

“With many individuals reaching retirement with little to no savings of their own, we must take a serious look at our current retirement programs and make the changes necessary to help secure the futures of so many hardworking Americans,” said Senator Young. “Our bill would enact a commission to better understand how we can strengthen private benefit programs and ensure our current and future generations have the tools necessary to plan for retirement.”

“The most important thing we can do to ensure Americans’ retirement security is to protect and strengthen Social Security,” said Senator Booker. “Beyond that, we must work to address the shortcomings that have resulted from the shift from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution plans like 401(k)s. This bill will advance the conversation on individual retirement savings at a time when far too many have been left without the retirement they’ve planned for.”

This legislation follows a report last year by the Government Accountability Office that recommended the creation of an independent panel of experts to assess our current system and make recommendations to improve the nation’s collective retirement security. It has been nearly 40 years since a federal commission has conducted a survey of this scope.

Specifically, the Federal Retirement Commission Act:

  • Calls for the creation of a commission comprised of the Secretary of Labor, Treasury, Commerce, two presidential appointees, six U.S. Senate appointees, and six U.S. House of Representatives appointees.
  • The commission will be charged with:
    • A comprehensive review of private benefit programs existing in the United States, with a particular focus on moving from defined benefit to defined contribution models.
    • A comprehensive review of private retirement coverage, individual and household accounts balances, investment trends, costs and net returns, and retention and distribution during retirement.
    • A comprehensive review of societal trends, including wage growth, economic growth, unique small business challenges, serial employment, gig economy, health care costs, life expectancy, and shrinking household size, that could lead future generations to be less financially secure in retirement compared to previous generations.
    • A comprehensive review of other countries’ retirement programs.
    • Submitting to Congress recommendations on how to improve or replace existing private retirement programs upon the affirmative vote of at least three-quarters of the members of the Commission.

Click here to view the bill text.