Monday, September 16, 2013

Yes, 401(k)s Are Scams

I have been saying this for 30 years, and I have been right. They are better than nothing, but not much.

Most people have no idea how much money they would need to save in these scam accounts to come close to the worth of a pension.


Thirty years ago, as laissez-faire fanaticism took hold of America, misguided policy-makers decided that do-it-yourself retirement plans, otherwise known as 401(k)s, would magically secure our financial future in the face of gyrating markets, economic crises, unpredictable life events, stagnant wages and rampant job insecurity. It was an extraordinary shift in thinking about public policy: Instead of having predictable streams of income from traditional pensions, ordinary people with little financial expertise would suddenly transform themselves into financial gurus, putting money aside and managing complicated investments in tax-deferred accounts.

There were red flags along the way. 401(k)s were originally supposed to supplement pensions, but clever corporate cost-cutters decided that voluntary individual accounts would replace them. Big difference! Meanwhile, throughout the 1990s, the national savings rate fell. Real wages dropped. As Helaine Olen details in her book Pound Foolish, Americans started borrowing against retirement plans to pay the mortgage or send the kids to college. The media was basically out to lunch, and politicians went on claiming the nonsense that individual retirement accounts would encourage savings and turn us all into professional money managers. The stock market would bring us double-digit returns. Whoopie!

You can thank our worthless politicians in Washington for providing a loophole big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through regarding defined contribution plans.

The only people who benefit from these scams are the hedge fund crooks and financial service managers who foisted this shit on workers.

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