The Hill Op-Ed: Time is short for Congress to enhance retirement security for all Americans

The following Op-Ed was first published by The Hill on December 15, 2022.

Adequately preparing for a financially secure retirement has long been an uphill battle for many Americans due to changing demographics, increasing longevity, and other factors. The COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, and an unsteady and uncertain economic environment have presented further significant challenges for many seeking to save. Passage of commonsense, bipartisan retirement-focused legislation before the end of the year is urgent to help ease that burden.

Helping Americans build savings for a secure retirement is among the most important roles of the U.S. capital markets. Policymakers must continue to address the challenge of encouraging and facilitating saving and investing for retirement across our society. There is a ripe — but time-sensitive — opportunity currently laying at the feet of Congress in the form of several pieces of bipartisan, commonsense legislation that would provide increased flexibility and options for retirement savers and would improve retirement security for all Americans. These improvements to the retirement system are the logical next move to build upon the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act in 2019, which become law in 2020.

A number of provisions included in these bills (HR 2954S 4353, and S 4808) would significantly enhance and support increased retirement savings. The legislation under consideration takes important steps toward enhancing the private retirement system and increasing retirement savings, including provisions that will incentivize small businesses to offer retirement plans, enable older Americans to save more and hold on to their savings longer, and help young people to save while paying off student loan debt.

As an industry, we support provisions that would expand coverage through increasing the employer credit and another that allows student loan payments to count as elective deferrals. Changes and increases to catch-up contributions would help individuals make up for any time lost from investing for their future by allowing for a higher catch-up contribution for savers while indexing catch-up contributions to inflation. In concert, a provision increasing the required minimum distribution (RMD) age would enable older Americans to save more and hold on to their savings longer.

The American retirement system has helped millions of Americans prepare for a secure future, and the private sector has played an important role in providing and administering retirement plans.

We commend and appreciate policymakers’ long-standing commitment to improving retirement security for all Americans and for their work on this important legislation. It would be a missed opportunity not to move this commonsense policy across the finish line for the sake of American retirement savers.

Kenneth E. Bentsen, President and CEO of SIFMA. Mr. Bentsen is also Chair of the International Council of Securities Associations (ICSA), Co-Chair of the British American Finance Alliance (BAFA) and Chairman of Engage China. From 1995 to 2003, Bentsen served as a Member of the United States House of Representatives from Texas,