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Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings

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.
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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.

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.