To help participants grow their balances, employer-sponsored DC plans are also incorporating behavioral finance concepts into plan design and architecture by automating systems.
“Now we see automatic enrollment, we see target dates, we see managed accounts that are becoming more complex and having more options as baked into defined contribution plans,” says Deb Dupont, assistant vice president for retirement plans research at the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute. “All of these things make it much easier and in fact [a] more passive decision on the part of the participant.”
Legislation, including 2019’s Setting Up Every Community for Retirement Act, has also eased plan sponsors’ responsibilities when selecting an insurer to offer annuitization options for participants’ decumulation stage. The safe harbor has prompted sponsors to increasingly build lifetime income options into their plans to provide retirement income certainty. And prior to the SECURE Act, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 led to widespread adoption of qualified default investment alternatives, including target-date funds, which helped DC plans incorporate ideas from DB plans, Dupont adds.
First, we need to keep a distinction in mind between efforts to ensure the elderly do not suffer actual material deprivation, whether that’s lack of nutritious food or adequate housing or medical needs, for instance, and efforts to help Americans plan for retirement and alleviate their expressed worries about the unknowns of retirement.
Second, issues of well-being, such as social isolation, and larger questions of the “right” form of provision of long-term care assistance, are not simple issues of finances but are nonetheless important as Americans age, and these topics should not be drowned out by a “retirement crisis” narrative. It should also go without saying that we will urgently need to turn our attention to the Medicare system as well.
And, third, in one crucial respect our models may fail us: experts have worked out a set of recommendations for asset allocation and income spend-down in retirement, and a set of projections for building those models, which fall apart if our new low-interest world continues, Japan-like, rather than being a temporary situation that resolves itself as we recover from the pandemic. Whether this is a result of government policies or an inevitable consequence of the changing economy, this could upend both Biggs’ projections of retiree well-being and the path to retirement security envisioned by legislation like the SECURE Act 2.0.