Working to find actionable solutions to the nation's key challenges.

The Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings was launched in 2014 to examine the U.S. retirement system and offer public policy recommendations that could facilitate increased savings and improve the financial security of Americans in retirement.

Significant change has swept through the American retirement system. Defined benefit pensions are being replaced with defined contribution savings arrangements. Many individuals, however, do not have access to workplace retirement savings plans. Of those who do have access, many are not contributing enough and are at risk for outliving their savings. As a result, millions of Americans may be approaching retirement with inadequate savings to maintain their standards of living.

Areas of focus included:

  • Improving federal policies for private savings. Federal law, including the tax code, contains dozens of provisions designed to encourage saving for retirement and other purposes, as well as others that provide a disincentive to save. Policy changes are needed to increase savings and retirement security, improve consumer protection, and reduce administrative burden for employers.
  • Expanding access to retirement savings vehicles. Evidence shows that Americans who have access to workplace plans are much more likely to save and be prepared for retirement. Today, only about half of U.S. workers have this opportunity.
  • Preserving Social Security for future generations. It is the bedrock of financial security for nearly all retired Americans, and thus, ensuring that Social Security continues to provide a base of income in retirement is imperative. One particularly important aspect is considering how its structure complements private savings.
  • Increasing financial literacy and fostering a culture of personal savings. Too few Americans understand the basics of personal finance or the importance of retirement savings. A strong foundation in financial literacy is vital to empower individuals to address their own savings and financial security needs.

Leaders and Commission

The commission is led by co-chairs Senator Kent Conrad and James B. Lockhart III.

Conrad represented North Dakota in the United States Senate for 26 years and served as the chairman or ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee for 12 years. Lockhart was appointed by President George W. Bush as deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the Social Security Administration and later as director and chairman of the Oversight Board of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. He previously served as the executive director of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.

The co-chairs are joined on the commission by a mix of former public officials and nationally recognized experts in savings and retirement policy.

View all commission members

Deliverables

During 2014 and 2015, the commission held public events and private roundtables to inform their deliberations with a wide array of perspectives. BPC staff has published a series of white papers and analyses highlighting challenges related to the commission’s work, including short-term and retirement savings, defined contribution accounts, lifetime income, Social Security, and the intersection between homeownership and savings. The commission developed a set of policy recommendations and modeled their impact on personal savings, retirement readiness, and the federal budget.
Final Recommendations

Securing Our Financial Future

A Guide to the 2018 Social Security and Medicare Trustees’ Reports

August 22, 2018 | Economy

A summary of our conclusions upon review of the 2018 Social Security and Medicare trustees’ reports, published by the ex officio trustees earlier this year.

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Bipartisan Senate Legislation to Boost Retirement Savings

July 17, 2018 | Economy

In a promising display of bipartisanship, four senators introduced legislation today to help millions of Americans save for retirement.

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The 6 Challenges to Retirement Security

January 19, 2018 | Economy

BPC’s Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings spent two years reviewing the challenges facing Americans on the road to retirement and proposing solutions. Take a look at the six challenges to retirement security and what could be done about them.

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Collision of Budget Deadlines and Tax Bill Could Have Grave Consequences

December 8, 2017 | Economy

The next few weeks could have a major impact on America’s fiscal future, with a vote on tax reform coming soon.

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Nobel Prize Winner’s Ideas ‘Nudge’ Public Policy

October 19, 2017 | Economy

Behavioral economics has been especially influential in the field of personal savings and informed the work of BPC’s Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings.

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A Guide to the 2017 Social Security and Medicare Trustees’ Reports

October 11, 2017 | Economy

The public trustees for Social Security and Medicare have been essential to the oversight of program finances since the official positions were established in 1983.

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Help Americans Secure Their Retirement

April 11, 2017 | Economy

There remains opportunity for action on important policies that can help the American people. Retirement security is one of those issues that crosses partisan boundaries.

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RESA Tax Provisions Aim to Improve Retirement Security

December 6, 2016 | Economy

The Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act would modify some of the existing retirement tax incentives in ways that would improve access to retirement savings.

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RESA Addresses Leakage from Retirement Savings Accounts

November 28, 2016 | Economy

Financial insecurity can cause many hard-working savers to prematurely withdraw funds from their retirement accounts for unexpected needs.

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House and Senate Bills Seek to Improve Retirement Security in America

November 18, 2016 | Economy

New bills would advance important goals, such as protecting retirement savings, simplifying account rules, and facilitating lifetime-income options.

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Legislation Could Reduce Risk of Retirees Outliving Savings

October 27, 2016 | Economy

The vast majority of 401(k) plan participants and their beneficiaries are on their own to make savings last throughout the remainder of their lives.

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New Legislation Looks to Expand Access to Retirement Plans

October 4, 2016 | Economy

One-third of Americans working in the private sector lack access to a retirement plan at work, a disproportionate share of which are employed by smaller businesses.

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New Senate Bill Would Address Key Retirement Security Challenges

September 20, 2016 | Economy

Several provisions in the proposed Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act of 2016 align with the goals and recommendations of a recent BPC report.

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New GAO Report Highlights Troubling Advice Given by SSA

September 15, 2016 | Economy

Because of the substantial impact that the age of claiming has on the financial security of many older Americans, the poor information provided by SSA is shocking and deeply concerning.

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Retirement Commission Co-Chairs Testify Before Senate Aging Committee

September 9, 2016 | Economy

Taken together, BPC’s recommendations would increase retirement savings by 50 percent for middle-class Americans and reduce old-age poverty by one-third.

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Ten years after retirement security law, it’s time to act again

August 17, 2016 | Economy

Kent Conrad and James Lockhart outline a bipartisan proposal that allows Americans the opportunity to easily save for retirement straight from their paychecks.

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Calls for Social Security Expansion Grow Louder in Washington

July 15, 2016 | Economy

The policy center called for lifting Social Security’s minimum benefit for very-low-income seniors, and enhancing the program’s survivor benefit.

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How fix a critical flaw in 401(k) plans

July 14, 2016 | Economy

Plenty of evidence shows that retirees are struggling with the reality of managing their savings, and they tend to fall into two camps regarding this issue.

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Analysis of The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act

July 12, 2016 | Economy

Proportionally adjusting benefits based on an individual’s work history is far more equitable and simpler than the current approach.

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One Social Security Reform that Democrats and Republicans Agree On

July 12, 2016 | Economy

Despite broader disagreements, members of both parties are working on a modest but important change to improve the Social Security’s benefit structure.

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This retirement plan lifts a million people out of poverty

July 1, 2016 | Economy

Kent Conrad and James Lockhart discuss a bipartisan proposal that would help boost retirement savings, including Social Security.

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Kent Conrad and James Lockhart Discuss Social Security Funding Crisis

June 28, 2016 | Economy

Conrad and Lockhart joined SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S. channel to discuss the challenges facing Social Security and outline key reform proposals included in a new BPC report.

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America isn’t saving enough for retirement. Can that be fixed before it’s too late?

June 27, 2016 | Economy

The aging of baby boomers and the looming funding crisis for Social Security have spurred candidates, lawmakers, and experts to propose ways to boost retirement savings.

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Social Security Trustees’ Report Illustrates Challenges Ahead

June 22, 2016 | Economy

The Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, which provides benefits to 49 million beneficiaries, will be unable to pay benefits as scheduled by 2035.

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America May Finally Be Ready for Mandatory Retirement Savings

June 22, 2016 | Economy

Two new proposals, plus a groundswell of support for the idea both on and off Wall Street, suggest that we may see real movement toward expanded workplace retirement plans.

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Retirement Savings and Security: An American Imperative

June 9, 2016 | Economy

Saving for retirement to ensure financial security in later years is a goal shared by all Americans that unfortunately is not always within easy reach.

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Securing Our Financial Future

June 9, 2016 | Economy

BPC’s plan aims to establish a better savings culture and renew the promise of an adequate retirement—across the income spectrum—for current and future generations.

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Middle-Income Seniors Face Obstacles to Healthy Aging at Home

June 8, 2016 | Housing

More homeowners are carrying mortgage debt later in life, restraining the ability of seniors to finance retirement and age with options in their communities.

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Securing Our Financial Future

June 9, 2016 | Economy

Two years ago, BPC launched the Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings to address some of the most important financial issues faced by all Americans.

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BPC Welcomes Treasury Moving Forward On Retirement Savings Program

November 4, 2015 | Economy

Those who have no easy avenue to put aside savings for retirement are much more likely to be financially insecure in old age.

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Social Security Trustees Warn of Short- and Long-Term Trouble

July 23, 2015 | Economy

As Baby Boomers move out of the labor force and into retirement, the ratio of workers to beneficiaries will drop to roughly 2:1 by 2034.

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NEC Director Jeffrey Zients to Keynote Discussion of New “Fiduciary Standard”

May 19, 2015 | Economy

What is the best way to ensure transparent, accurate and timely disclosure of fees? Join BPC on May 27 to hear from leading voices on all sides of this debate.

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Tax Hikes To Fix Retirement Security Woes?

May 14, 2015 | Economy

Shoring up Social Security and ramping up private savings were the laudable goals on the agenda at a recent conference put on by BPC and the Concord Coalition.

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A Bipartisan Opportunity: Improving Retirement Security

May 12, 2015 | Economy

Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Senator Orrin Hatch headlined a forum on the state of retirement security in America.

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How Waiting for Social Security Can Help Increase Your Benefits

April 6, 2015 | Economy

Here’s one strategy for savvy savers that can net an extra $10,000 and reduce their risk of outliving assets – without having to work a day more.

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Four Tips to Help Make Your Savings Last Throughout Retirement

March 31, 2015 | Economy

Will your savings last in retirement? Many Americans have not even thought about the answer to that question. Among those who have, far too many will say “no.”

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Barriers to Savings: Asset Tests

March 13, 2015 | Economy

Asset tests are clearly a strong savings disincentive for Americans who benefit from means-tested programs.

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Disability Insurance Trust Fund Solvency: Act Now and Later

February 27, 2015 | Economy

The need for action is an opportunity to ensure not only that benefits are preserved for current beneficiaries but also to modernize elements of Social Security.

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Safeguarding Social Security and Other Retirement Policy Fixes

February 11, 2015 | Economy

Relatively modest changes could help many more Americans achieve a comfortable retirement. And that should be enough reason for policymakers to act.

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Social Security Disability Insurance in Obama’s 2016 Budget

February 3, 2015 | Economy

The program relies on a trust fund that is projected to be exhausted in the fall of 2016.

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Understanding Proposed Reforms to Military Retirement

February 3, 2015 | Economy

A congressionally-sponsored commission has recommended significant changes to military retirement benefits that would apply to newly enlisted and commissioned service members.

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Obama’s Budget Highlights Retirement Security

February 2, 2015 | Economy

With baby boomers entering retirement and student loan debt growing rapidly, personal savings issues have unsurprisingly grabbed the policy spotlight.

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Is MyRA the Only Way?

January 26, 2015 | Economy

Programs designed to help individuals save more have advanced in the administration, in the academic and advocacy community, in Congress, and in the states.

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Do You Know How Much Your 401(k) Plan Costs Uncle Sam? (He Doesn’t!)

January 14, 2015 | Economy

The system of “cash” scoring that the Joint Committee on Taxation uses only accounts for funds spent and revenues collected over the next few years, but saving for retirement is a lifetime process.

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Illinois Enacts Major Retirement Security Legislation

January 7, 2015 | Economy

The law will require employers to either offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan or automatically enroll their employees into the new Secure Choice program.

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Congress to New Federal Employees: Diversify Your Portfolios!

December 22, 2014 | Economy

Congress acted to make target-date funds the default investment in the retirement plan for federal employees.

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Kline-Miller: Making Tough Choices to Improve Solvency for Retiree Plans

December 15, 2014 | Economy

The spending bill that passed the House last week included a bipartisan provision that would allow certain underfunded pension plans to reduce benefits that were promised to retirees.

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Lotteries with No Losers Have the Green Light

December 15, 2014 | Economy

The American Savings Promotion Act, which will allow banks to offer depositors lottery entries (in lieu of interest) in “Prize-Linked Savings” accounts, passed the Senate by unanimous consent earlier this week and is now headed for President Obama’s desk.

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The ABLE Act Gives Americans with Disabilities New Opportunities to Save

December 8, 2014 | Economy

Under the new law, eligible Americans with disabilities, family members, and friends could make deposits into “ABLE accounts,” which will be a new class of the existing 529 accounts that are designed to facilitate saving for higher education.

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Multiemployer Plans in Trouble

November 24, 2014 | Economy

The multiemployer insurance program was designed with the (incorrect) assumption that the plans would be safe and unlikely to fail because the inclusion of multiple employers offset the risk that any single one would fail.

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Recent Treasury/IRS Regs Encourage Use of Annuities by DC Account Holders

November 17, 2014 | Economy

One of the challenges that defined contribution plan participants face is how to turn their savings into income that will last through the end of their lives.

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Private-sector Defined Benefit Plans and the PBGC

November 10, 2014 | Economy

Defined benefit plans in the U.S. have rapidly disappeared, and for the vast majority of retirees going forward, a defined contribution account will be their sole workplace retirement plan.

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Threats to Retirement Security: Longevity, Long-Term Care and Leakage

November 20, 2014 | Health

Americans’ number one financial worry is their ability to prepare for retirement. While saving a sufficient amount is one major challenge, another is making those savings last through longer retirements.

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Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings

November 3, 2014 | Economy

The commission examines whether savings rates and available savings vehicles are meeting the retirement goals of Americans and the nation’s investment needs.

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Defined Benefit Plans: Where’d They Go?

October 28, 2014 | Economy

For individuals covered by defined benefit (DB) pension plans, some risks in retirement are ameliorated. But DB plans have disappeared from many American workplaces.

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Needing Help: Long-Term Care Risk

October 14, 2014 | Economy

Americans face the challenge of ensuring that their savings are sufficient to last through the end of their lives. This challenge is magnified by the potential need for long-term care.

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New Staff Paper Focuses on Diversity in Retirement Preparedness

October 7, 2014 | Economy

A Diversity of Risks: The Challenge of Retirement Preparedness in America explains the complexity of the U.S. retirement system through the eyes of four illustrative households.

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A Diversity of Risks: The Challenge of Retirement Preparedness in America

October 7, 2014 | Economy

When evaluating the retirement security landscape, complexity is the one constant.

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Retirement Security: A Diversity of Risks

October 7, 2014 | Economy

Saving for and managing the risks surrounding retirement security can be a daunting task, as shown by these illustrative profiles.

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Outliving Your Savings: Longevity Risk

September 29, 2014 | Economy

Individuals must make their savings last for the possibility of living two, three, or more decades beyond their working careers.

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Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing on Retirement Savings Reform

September 24, 2014 | Economy

The Senate Finance Committee hearing comes just months after BPC officially launched its Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings.

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Leakage: Taking the Money Too Early

September 19, 2014 | Economy

Many employers don’t sponsor workplace retirement plans, and ones that do but lack automatic features too often result in workers failing to participate.

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The Impact of Automatic Features in Defined Contribution Plans

September 11, 2014 | Economy

By offering auto-enrollment, higher default contribution rates, and/or auto-escalation, employers can help their employees save more and better prepare for retirement.

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Defined Contribution Retirement Accounts: The New Normal

August 20, 2014 | Economy

Defined Contribution accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, make up a large and growing part of retirement security for those employed in the private sector.

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Social Security Trustees Report: One Year Closer to Insolvency

July 28, 2014 | Economy

This morning, the trustees of Social Security released their annual report, which includes an assessment of the program’s financial health. The Social Security actuaries estimate that under current law, the Old-Age and Survivor’s Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund will be depleted in 2034 (one year earlier than projected last year), while the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund will be depleted in late 2016, unchanged from last year.

Social Security trustees report

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Retirement Security: What’s Working and What’s Not?

July 30, 2014 | Economy

Americans’ number one financial worry is their ability to prepare for retirement.

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Households near retirement don’t have enough savings

June 17, 2014 | Economy

Many Americans, including those near retirement, have not saved enough. The Employee Benefit Research Institute finds that over 40 percent of Americans are at risk of running short of money for expenses in retirement. The combination of low saving rates, insufficient emergency funds, and increased responsibility for workers has left too many Americans without adequate savings for retirement to supplement their Social Security benefits.

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A Shift to Defined Contribution Retirement Plans

June 10, 2014 | Economy

The number of companies offering any sort of defined benefit (DB) retirement plan of the sort that used to be common for employees of large unionized companies has steeply declined over the last few decades. DB plans guarantee retirees a specific cash benefit, often defined as a percentage of average salary during the final few years of employment, for the duration of their retirement. Even the prosperous companies on the Fortune 100 list in 2013 have been quickly shedding DB plans since the late 1990s.

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Americans are not prepared for financial emergencies

June 3, 2014 | Economy

Roughly 44 percent of Americans say they are not prepared to meet emergency expenses. When asked if they could come up with $2,000 in 30 days, one-quarter of the people surveyed said that they were certain that they could not. An additional 19 percent responded that they would be forced to sell possessions, such as cars, furniture, or their homes, to do so.

Personal savings

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Americans are saving less than we used to

May 27, 2014 | Economy

The personal saving rate has been declining in this country for many years. Although the saving rate has jumped around, the long-term trend is clearly downward. The reasons for this long-term decline are difficult to pinpoint but likely include stagnant real incomes for many workers, rising standards of living and higher consumption, and a weaker dollar than in the past.

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Prize-Linked Savings Accounts Are Lotteries with No Losers

May 14, 2014 | Economy

Prize-Linked Savings (PLS) accounts are like standard savings accounts – but instead of accruing interest, savers are entered into a lottery for larger amounts of money. In the U.S., PLS products are available only in some states and on a limited basis, but they are already employed widely in over 20 countries around the world.

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Retirement and Personal Savings Commissioners

April 22, 2014 | Economy

Kent Conrad, Co-Chair Former U.S. Senator, North Dakota Former Chair, Senate Budget Committee James B. Lockhart III, Co-Chair Vice Chairman, WL Ross & Co. LLC Former Principal Deputy Commissioner, Social Security Administration Todd F. Barth President, Bowers Properties Inc. Board…

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Why is BPC Launching a Personal Savings Initiative?

April 22, 2014 | Economy

On Wednesday morning, the Bipartisan Policy Center will launch the Personal Savings Initiative (register to join us here). The initiative will be led by former Senator Kent Conrad, who served as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and James Lockhart, who served as deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration and other key roles in the executive branch. Their effort will be supported by a bipartisan commission of nationally recognized experts who will examine legislative and regulatory avenues to improve Americans’ personal savings and retirement security.

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U.K. Budget Proposes Pension and Savings Changes

April 10, 2014 | Economy

Evidence of a growing retirement problem in the United States continues to surface. As the graph below illustrates, private savings has fallen significantly in the last 55 years. And the United States isn’t the only nation facing retirement challenges. Last…

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Launch of the Personal Savings Initiative

April 23, 2014 | Economy

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) launched of its Personal Savings Initiative. The initiative will examine whether savings rates and available savings vehicles are meeting the retirement goals of Americans and the nation’s investment needs. Featuring the Initiative Co-chairs: Senator Kent…

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