Coming off a year in which nearly every asset class declined and defined contribution plan participants saw their account balances plummet, plan sponsors are wondering when the capital markets carnage will end and when the recovery will begin.
DC Plans in 2009
In this podcast, Darrell R. Spence, economist and vice president at Capital Strategy Research, a Capital Group Company subsidiary that provides macroeconomic research to Capital Guardian, offers his assessment of the situation and provides keen insight into how the defined contribution industry and the investment industry can react. The podcast is a recording of Mr. Spences presentation at the Pensions & Investments East Coast Defined Contribution Conference on Feb. 9. Mr. Spence walks us through his discussion with the Powerpoint slideshow available on this page. A word of warning: Mr. Spences assessment is not exactly rosy. He points out that the major sectors of the economy – housing, non-residential construction, consumer spending, trade and business investment are either all negative or turning negative. That spells little relief for equity prices over the near term. In addition, the risk of deflation looms large, with any government-stimulus-driven inflation still some time off. Nonetheless, Mr. Spence points out, in this very down-to-earth and valuable presentation, that a back-to-basics approach, with a focus on the long term, can soften the blow and prepare defined contribution plan sponsors – and thus their participants – for the recovery.
Although Washington is abuzz with activity as a new president and a new Congress attempt to craft a major economic stimulus package, many of the age-old rivalries and partisan squabbles continue to bog down progress, even as President Obama pushes for a change in the way things work. Still, changes will come as legislators attempt to get the U.S. economic train back on the tracks. What will that mean for defined contribution plan sponsors and their plan participants?
In this podcast, John J. ONeill, a partner in the Washington office of Venable, walks us through the election, the players – new and old – the number one priority of lawmakers and whats on President Obamas list of things to do over his first 100 days in office. The podcast is a recording from Mr. ONeills speech at P&Is East Coast Defined contribution conference, held Feb. 8 through 10. Slides accompanying his talk are also available. With a mix of wit and humor, Mr. ONeill points out that the legislative process remains slow as molasses but that an economic stimulus package will be on the presidents desk sometime soon, with financial market reform the next likely subject that Congress will address. Despite the news in the fall of 2008 about the push that California Democrat George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor committee was pushing for dramatic changes in 401k plans, Mr. ONeill says the election and the economy have pushed that effort into the background for the foreseeable future. Still, he says fee transparency is still an issue to keep an eye on and suggests that over the long term, regulatory changes and possible fundamental reform are distinct possibilities.
Dallas Salisbury, Employee Benefit Research Institute president and CEO, knows the trouble most retirement plan participants are in - and why.
In this podcast, Mr. Salisbury discusses some of the challenges facing defined contribution plan sponsors based on research his organization has completed in such areas as: how plan participants take their distributions (hint: very few take an annuity option); their expectations for life expectancy and retirement (hint: somewhat misguided) and their tendency to choose benefits for now (e.g., a house, a child's college education or health care) over benefits later (e.g., retirement). His bottom line? Despite much progress over the years, there remains much that DC plan sponsors need to learn to more effectively communicate with their plan participants.
The podcast is a recording from Mr. Salisbury's speech at P&I's East Coast Defined contribution conference, held Feb. 8 through 10.
On the day this recording was made, Mr. Salisbury received the EBRI Lillywhite Award, named for pension investment pioneer Ray Lillywhite. The award honors outstanding lifetime contributions to America's economic security. Mr. Salisbury joined EBRI at its founding in 1978. He also has served on several pension-related panels including on the Labor Department's ERISA Advisory Council and the PBGC Advisory Committee.