Edmund F. Murphy III, president and CEO of Empower, a leading retirement plan record-keeping firm, is pushing an idea that the industry and many of his fellow Republicans oppose: He thinks all employers should be required to offer their workers a retirement plan.
"I believe we need a mandate to offer a retirement plan at all companies," he said during a panel discussion at the EBRI-Milken Institute 2024 Retirement Symposium in Washington on Jan. 23.
While Murphy lauded the 401(k) retirement system as one of the "best public-private partnerships" in the nation, he lamented the fact that many workers don't have access to workplace retirement plans, particularly those working for small employers.
Recent legislation — namely the SECURE Act and SECURE 2.0 Act — as well as the emergence of state-facilitated retirement savings programs have been constructive and "pro-growth," but they haven't resolved the coverage issue, he said.
Murphy noted that the recent legislation removed many of the impediments blocking small employers from offering plans, such as plan costs and complexity.
SECURE 2.0, for example, gives small employers an enhanced tax credit for offering first-time plans and gives them the option of offering a streamlined 401(k) plan — or "Starter 401(k)" — that is less burdensome to manage.
"I do think if you're in business, you should offer a plan with all the support that we'll be providing," Murphy said.
Murphy endorses a bill that Richard Neal, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, has advocated since 2016. The bill requires employers with five or more employees to offer a retirement plan.
"I'm a Republican, but there's a lot of Republicans who I've talked to on the Hill that don't support this because they view it as a mandate," Murphy said. "We have mandates everywhere. Social Security is a mandate. You can't opt out of Social Security."