By Representative Brad Wenstrup (OH-2)
As of 2019, one quarter of American adults had no retirement savings at all. Only 36 percent of non-retired American adults think that “their retirement saving is on track,” according to the Federal Reserve’s annual report. There is no question about it: our nation can do a better job of equipping and encouraging our senior citizens to be prepared for this next season of their lives and provide more opportunities for Americans to plan long-range. Part of this can be done at a policy level, by passing practical reforms that address the obstacles to saving that some Americans experience. We must also address this on a personal level, by ensuring more Americans are equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to effectively save for and secure their futures.
In Washington, my priority is helping improve the lives of the American people, and that includes addressing our nation’s retirement system to ensure it serves our seniors more effectively. One way Congress did this was by passing the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019. This bill, which passed with my support, will streamline and update our nation’s retirement system in several ways, including removing the age limitation on IRA contributions, increasing access to retirement plans by allowing small businesses to join together to offer plans, and allowing penalty-free distributions from a retirement account for the birth or adoption of a child. This legislation isn’t perfect, but it is a step forward, and I am glad the SECURE Act was passed into law at the end of 2019. While approximately half of American households still don’t have an option for work-based retirement plans, as a nation we must continue to work to advance access to retirement savings vehicles and decrease barriers to entry for small employers who want to offer savings plans to their employees.
As a country, we also need to encourage generations of all ages to be informed about their options for retirement saving and to take personal responsibility for their own financial planning, including understanding the extent of their senior benefits such as Medicare or Social Security or taking advantage of the fact that many employers will match what American workers choose to contribute to their retirement, which means twice the savings. Currently, for many Americans, their personal savings fall well short of what they will need to continue to fund their standards of living after retiring from the workforce full-time – and I worry that each generation is saving less. If financial planning feels overwhelming, there are many existing resources you can access to help ensure you are effectively utilizing your options. The Department of Labor has created a guide called the Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement to help with practical tips for building retirement savings. USA.gov provides an outline of your options for saving as well as a list of questions to ask yourself to ensure you’re planning sufficiently for your future. You can also use a retirement calculator to find out the best age to claim your Social Security benefits. If you are experiencing a problem with your pension, profit sharing, or retirement savings plans, USA.gov points to the Pension Rights Center as a potential source of free legal assistance or advice. Knowledge is power, and it’s important that Americans of all ages are informed of their options so that they can plan appropriately for their futures.
Ultimately, seniors aren’t just a class of individuals who are a certain age — they are our mothers and fathers, grandparents, teachers, pastors, and public servants. They are each of us, either today or tomorrow. As a nation, it is incumbent upon us to prioritize safeguarding the futures of our senior citizens and addressing some of the obstacles to saving that exist both in our system and in our society. It is not just “their” future, it is our future. We’re in this together. Let’s secure our futures.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.