The Urban Institute recently published a Retirement Security Data Brief that shows Americans are contributing more to defined contribution (DC) plans of the 401(k) variety than to defined benefit (DC) pension plans as less employers offer DB plans to their employees. This supports SCEPA research, which has documented the effect of this structural shift in the labor market - a downward trend in individual’s ability to retire at their current standard of living due to high fees and market losses.
In their documentation of this trend, The Urban Institute’s analysis can be misleading. It shows that when adjusted for inflation, DC assets have increased by 5 percent from 2007 to 2012, suggesting that DC accounts have recovered from the recession and that these accounts can recover from market vulnerability. However, this calculation includes yearly workers’ contributions, which is the same problem faced by the Beardstown Ladies, the savvy group of older women who pooled their knowledge to invest their money. Their fantastical returns reported in their best selling book were audited when it was discovered they included their contributions as earnings.
When yearly contributions are subtracted, the increase is only 1 percent - hardly enough to be considered a recovery and certainly not enough to adequately prepare for retirement.
American workers' retirement plans are not working as hard for them as they should. If these funds had been contributed to a Guaranteed Retirement Account it would have created a more stable and significant source of retirement funding. The GRA shields workers' hard-earned savings from stock market crashes by pooling investments and guaranteeing a rate of return. GRA plans would provide 3 percent returns above inflation, plus the 5 percent of combined employee-employer annual contributions. This 8 percent increase over 4 years would mean an increase of 32 percent, including their own contributions.