Americans Oppose Initiatives Limiting 401(k) Choices, ICI Says
U.S. investors oppose federal initiatives that would force them to give up control over their 401(k) accounts, the Investment Company Institute said.
Seven in 10 U.S. households object to the idea of the government requiring retirees to convert part of their savings into annuities guaranteeing a steady payment for life, according to an institute-funded report today.
“Households’ views on policy changes revealed a preference to preserve retirement account features and flexibility,” the institute, which represents the mutual-fund industry, said in the report.
The U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments will ask for public comment as soon as next week on ways to promote the conversion of 401(k) savings and Individual Retirement Accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams, according to Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Mark Iwry, who are spearheading the effort.
The institute’s member companies manage $11.6 trillion of assets in mutual funds, including employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts. Some lawmakers have questioned the public-policy value of the tax benefits for people investing in retirement accounts, the ICI said in a report today.
The average 401(k) fund balance dropped 31 percent to $47,500 at the end of March 2009 from $69,200 at the end of 2007, according to a Fidelity Investments review of 11 million accounts it manages. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index tumbled 46 percent in that period. The average balance of the Fidelity accounts recovered to $60,700 as of last Sept. 30 as the stock market rebounded.
Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, proposed legislation on Dec. 16 to require fund companies to do more to ensure 401(k) options are appropriate for workers. The Wisconsin Democrat cited reports that target- date funds designed for people retiring in 2010 invested in high-yield, high-risk corporate bonds.
Representative George Miller, a California Democrat, is advocating legislation to require more disclosure about 401(k) fees paid by investors. The Education and Labor Committee, which Miller leads, approved a bill requiring more disclosure about fees in June.
The ICI survey was based on a telephone survey of 3,000 households from Nov. 20 to Dec. 20 and had a sampling error of plus or minus 1.8 percent.