Retirement for All Legislation Introduced
A secure retirement for Wisconsin workers may be coming in the future. Senate Bill 611, introduced by Senator David Hanson (D-Green Bay), creates a board to study creating a private sector program modeled after the highly successful public employee Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).
Being able to retire with dignity and financial independence was once part of the American Dream. But retirement security is declining in America. Many experts say a retirement crisis is developing. Many people will be unable to retire, will have to work longer, or will live in in poverty during their “golden years”. This decline in secure, adequate income for older persons will have a negative impact on Wisconsin’s economy as a whole.
There are many contributing factors to the crisis: declining wages, exportation of middle class jobs, increasing healthcare costs, inadequate individual savings, and companies defaulting on pension promises. Since 1980, there has been a profound shift in the structure of retirement programs. Guaranteed, defined benefit company pensions have largely been replaced with individual, voluntary defined contribution retirement savings plans like 401(k)s. However, research shows that individuals who save on their own using defined contributions plans, get lower investment returns, pay higher management fees, and have dramatically less at retirement than defined benefit retirement plans.
Wisconsin can avoid much of this crisis. The very successful Wisconsin Retirement System provides an example of how to do retirement right. Rated number one in the country, WRS is a shared risk, defined benefit pension program serving 572,000 active public employees and retirees. The WRS is fully funded, meaning the assets are large enough to cover all expected current and future retirement payments. Pension payments are guaranteed and have provided family supporting retirement income since 1985. Pensions are paid with public employer and employee contributions plus investment earnings. Taxpayers DO NOT pay for public employee pensions.
A similar program for the private sector could, over time, provide a secure retirement for all Wisconsin workers. Like WRS, the program would work by pooling resources, keeping costs low, spreading risk, and providing quality investment management. Also like WRS, no taxpayer contributions would be involved.
Wisconsin businesses would benefit by attracting and retaining quality employees because of a better retirement plan. Stable retirement incomes would make the entire economy more stable and benefit many small businesses. The tax base would be more stable and the retirement crisis could be avoided. Retirement for all is a win-win for Wisconsin. We all need to support Senator Hansen’s bill.
For more information on this issue see:
“Retirement for All, A Wisconsin Solution to the Retirement Crisis” written by Protect Our Retirement Security (POWRS) at http://wisconsinara.org/issues/POWRS/White_Paper
Senator Hansen’s press release http://www.thewheelerreport.com/wheeler_docs/files/0227hansen.pdf
Text of Senate Bill 611 is at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/related/proposals/sb611