WASHINGTON, May 11, 2007 – The Conversation on Coverage, an unprecedented public policy initiative to expand pensions and retirement savings, released its final recommendations today at the National Press Club. Covering the Uncovered: Final Report of the Conversation on Coverage offers innovative common-ground proposals to increase pension coverage and retirement savings for American workers – particularly low- and moderate-income wage earners. The report can be viewed at www.conversationoncoverage.org.
The recommendations were developed by more than 45 experts of varying perspectives who recognize that the lack of pension coverage among millions of Americans is a critical problem that needs to be addressed. These experts -- who came from the business community, unions, financial institutions, retiree organizations, and academia -- put their differences aside to develop concrete, marketable, and detailed proposals that hold the promise of increasing coverage among working Americans. The proposals include:
- Two new types of guaranteed pension plans, which recognize that employees need income they can count on in retirement:
- The Guaranteed Account Plan (GAP) is new type of “hybrid” plan – one that takes some of the features of traditional pension plans and combines them with features of 401(k) plans. Under GAP, employers contribute to employees’ pension accounts and guarantee a promised rate of return. The funding rules for GAP are simple and will protect the employer from steep future funding increases.
- The Plain Old Pension Plan (POPP) is a new simplified traditional defined benefit pension plan that is easy for employers to create, fund, and administer. The POPP has simpler and more predictable funding rules than other defined benefit plans, while still providing a lifetime stream of income for retirees.
- A new plan that will encourage individuals to save for retirement:
- The Retirement Investment Account (RIA) establishes a new national clearinghouse structure to administer portable individual retirement accounts. This structure provides an easy and efficient way for workers who are not covered by plans to save for retirement.
- A new plan that will expand coverage in the small business sector:
- The Model T is a new simplified, low-cost multiple employer payroll deduction plan which will be offered by sold and marketed by financial institutions to small employers where the coverage rates are the lowest. The Model T’s simplicity should lend itself to effective marketing techniques.
Covering the Uncovered describes each of these proposals in detail, breaking them down into their key components, discussing rationales and the decision-making process, listing other approaches that were considered, and recommending incremental steps that could be taken to increase coverage.
“The Conversation on Coverage has been an extraordinary process,” said Karen Friedman, policy director for the Pension Rights Center and director of the initiative. “Everyone involved united under one mission -- to increase coverage – and spent countless hours developing these proposals. Covering the Uncovered represents the culmination of all of their hard work.”
Speakers at the press conference included Olena Berg Lacy, Board Member of Financial Engines, and former Assistant Secretary of the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration; Michael Calabrese, Vice President and Director of the Retirement Security Program for the New America Foundation; Maria Freese, Director of Government Relations and Policy at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; Melissa Kahn, Vice President for Government and Industry Relations at MetLife; John Kimpel, former Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Fidelity Investments; and Norman Stein, Douglas Arant Professor of Law at the University of Alabama School of Law. All members of the Conversation on Coverage participated as individuals and not as representatives of their organizations.
The Conversation on Coverage was launched in 2001 by the Pension Rights Center to address the fact that approximately half of the private-sector workforce does not have access to or does not participate in a workplace retirement plan. Low- and moderate-income workers, younger workers, part-time workers, contract workers, the self-employed, and workers at small businesses are even less likely to be covered by a plan. The final proposals are targeted to these segments of the workforce.
The Conversation is supported by the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and The Atlantic Philanthropies, and by Platinum Sponsors: AARP, MetLife and Nationwide; Sponsoring Organizations: ASPPA Pension Education and Research Foundation the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Fidelity Investments, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Prudential Financial, the Retirement Security Project, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Vanguard; and Co-Sponsoring Organizations: the AFL-CIO, the American Academy of Actuaries, the American Benefits Institute, the American Council of Life Insurers, the Communications Workers of America, and the Service Employees International Union.