William G. Gale is a vice president and director of the Brookings Institution's Economic Studies program, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy. He is also founding codirector of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. John B. Shoven is the Charles R. Schwab Professor of Economics at Stanford University. Mark J. Warshawsky was director of research at the TIAA-CREF Institute.
As members of the baby boom generation head into retirement, they face an economic environment that has changed noticeably since their parents retired. Most of these new retirees will not be equipped, as many in the earlier generation were, with private pension plans, early retirement options, and fully paid retiree health benefits in addition to Social Security and Medicare. Today it is increasingly left to retirees themselves to plan how to maximize retirement income and minimize risk. In Retirement Income, Mark Warshawsky and his colleagues describe strategies, products, and public policies that will help a new generation achieve financial security and income growth in retirement.
Warshawsky, a noted expert in the field who has worked in both government and private industry, analyzes two insurance vehicles, life annuities and long-term care insurance, and their capacity to protect against the extra costs arising from longevity and disability. He proposes two innovations. The first is a strategy that includes a set percentage withdrawal from a balanced portfolio, which is gradually used to purchase a ladder of life annuities. The second proposal, which includes a description of the potential choices in product design and available tax characteristics, is a product that integrates the immediate life annuity and long-term care insurance.
With Retirement Income, Warshawsky offers practical ideas based on the results of empirical investigations and analyses, which can be applied to household decision making by retirees and their financial planners and to the design of insurance products and public policy.
Over the past quarter century, America's pension system has shifted away from defined benefit plans and toward defined contribution savings programs such as 401(k)s and IRAs. There is much to be done to improve the defined contribution system. Many workers fail to participate and those who do often contribute too little, invest the funds poorly, and are not adequately prepared to manage funds while in retirement.
To resolve these problems, the authors propose that employees should be automatically enrolled into a 401(k) plan when they are hired, with the right to opt out, change the amount that they contribute, or change investment choices if they choose. If the employer does not sponsor a 401(k) or similar retirement plan, they would be enrolled in a payroll deduction Automatic IRA. This vision of a transformed defined contribution system incorporates key positive features of defined benefit plans to improve retirement security. Employess contributions would increase over time, their investments would benefit from professional management and rebalancing, and they would receive lifetime income upon retirement. These automatic features will make the 401(k) and similar plans a more effective tool for retirement saving, and they can be extended to the many workers who do not currently have access to an employer plan.
In Automatic, the authors present proposals to implement automatic features in all phases of the 401(k) and in IRAs for workers with no employer plan. They also draw from the experience of countries that have implemented automatic saving structures.