American policymakers share much of the blame for inadequate retirement savings, but they also can do something about it, according to the author of “Retirement on the Rocks: Why Americans Can't Get Ahead and How New Savings Policies Can Help.”
Written by Christian Weller, professor of public policy at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, the book will be formally launched Dec. 21 at the Center for American Progress, Washington, where Mr. Weller is a senior fellow.
“Policy has failed America's middle class by not addressing the rise of economic risks that have made it harder for people to save for retirement,” Mr. Weller said in an interview. Employment, housing and the markets have become riskier and more intertwined, just as people have been forced to accept more of the responsibility for their retirement savings, he explained. “We rely too heavily on employers as gatekeepers to an adequate retirement,” he said.
The book identifies several practical steps policymakers could take, including adding a meaningful minimum benefit to Social Security; more tax benefits for lower-income earners; simplified and automatic savings rules; and more options outside of employer plans. Risk protections similar to those of defined benefit pensions are key to ensuring adequate savings and lifetime income, he writes in the book.
“Every step can help,” Mr. Weller said in the interview, noting that states are moving faster on policy changes, but there is a chance Congress could produce a savers credit and other changes in the next year or so. “I am actually fairly hopeful,” he said.