After Election Day, all of the retirement industry's challenges will still be there.
Just to name a few: fiduciary requirements, coronavirus-impact responses, litigation risk and financial wellness goals.
Solutions to these challenges will depend on political changes — a daunting collection of moving parts, uncertainty and what-ifs affecting legislation, regulation and, most importantly, participants' ability to save more.
Speakers and panelists at Pensions & Investments DCW Fall Virtual Series, a five-day event held Oct. 26-30, offered some opinions and perhaps some comfort to sponsors who soon must make many post-election decisions.
"Breathe," said Kevin L. Walsh, a Washington-based principal at Groom Law Group. The lumbering regulatory approval process could mean many proposed rules won't take effect — or at least not in their current form — if Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump, he said.
"This too shall pass," said Jeffrey Brown, professor of business and dean of business of the Gies College of Business, University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., referring to election-related uncertainty.
The possible political permutations for the presidency, Congress and regulatory agencies mean crystal balls, like the one Mr. Brown showed on a slide during his Oct. 26 keynote address, can shatter easily.
After Nov. 2, the retirement industry will be faced with "two very different paths — not a fork in the road," Mr. Brown said.
If Mr. Trump is re-elected, he will take "a much more passive approach" to retirement security legislation "with few additional changes," Mr. Brown said. Other than the recent passage of the SECURE Act, Mr. Brown said Mr. Trump has offered "no clear plans for a second term."
If Mr. Biden is elected, he will take "a more activist" approach with "more reliance on a regulatory approach," said Mr. Brown, noting that one proposal "would upend traditional 401(k) plans."
He was referring to Mr. Biden's plan for offering a flat tax credit to savers rather than current system of pretax contributions "that provide bigger tax benefits to the rich," Mr. Brown said. The goal is to increase the savings of lower earners.
Mr. Brown cited several big retirement issues facing whomever wins the election, including low interest rates, which will "make retirement more expensive" by forcing up the cost of annuities while also pushing down the returns of retirees, who typically invest in fixed-income assets.
Another significant issue is the savings disparity among income groups, which "disproportionately affect Blacks and Latinos," he said.
Existing policies and programs "reinforce disparities by race," he said. "Plan coverage as an issue of racial justice will lead to policy changes."