Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Retirement Industry Thanksgiving List

Thanksgiving is a special time of year — and one on which it seems fitting to reflect on all for which we should be thankful. Here’s my 2015 list:
I’m thankful that so many employers voluntarily choose to offer a workplace retirement plan — and that so many workers, given an opportunity to participate, do.
I’m thankful that so many employers choose to match contributions or to make profit-sharing contributions (or both). 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 trends that suggest 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 participants, by and large, continue to hang in there with their commitment to retirement savings, despite lingering economic uncertainty and competing economic interests, such as rising health care costs and college debt.
I’m thankful that the federal government remains willing to postpone taxing pay that Americans postpone taking (and spending) by saving for retirement.
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)… 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 hopeful, particularly in areas like the fiduciary proposal, that the final product will reflect 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 here research that doesn’t live up to those objective standards.
I’m thankful for the warmth with which readers and members, both old and new, continue to embrace the work we do here. 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 constant — and enthusiastic — support of our Firm Partners and advertisers.
I’m thankful for the team here at NAPA (and the American Retirement Association, generally), and for the strength, commitment and diversity of the 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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