Retirement challenges dominate media headlines and present policymakers with a tremendous opportunity for action. Tectonic shifts in demographics, policy, and the marketplace have transformed the U.S. retirement landscape. The most profound change has been an ongoing shift by many employers from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution plans. As a result, 401(k)—previously an obscure section of the tax code—has become a household name.
Workers have found themselves part of a great experiment—one that has given individuals and families far more control and responsibility for financing their own retirement, and simultaneously exposed them to greater risk. Some families are preparing appropriately, but others struggle to save for retirement while meeting competing, and often more-immediate, personal needs related to emergencies, homeownership, and education.
As average longevity increases, Americans need to save more or work longer if they hope to maintain their standard of living during retirement. While Social Security, the foundation of the U.S. retirement income system, is paying benefits over more retirement years, the current benefit schedule is underfunded.
Given all of these changes and risks, it is no surprise that Americans are anxious about retirement. Many are uncertain about what they should do to prepare. As the retirement system evolves, Americans need up-to-date guidance and better information to navigate a path to long-term financial security.
Today, more than in the past, personal responsibility is of central importance in retirement preparedness—individuals and families can’t afford to take a passive approach to retirement savings—but that doesn’t mean everyone should be or can be on their own. People need the assistance of a well-designed system as they accumulate, invest, and spend down their retirement savings. Public policy has a critical role to play in facilitating savings and a secure retirement.
This report presents a comprehensive package of bipartisan proposals to address six key challenges:
Taken together, the recommendations contained in this report aim to establish a better savings culture and renew the promise of an adequate retirement—across the income spectrum—for current and future generations of Americans.