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A More Secure Retirement

AARP is backing a new protection for your savings

spinner image jo ann jenkins speaking at a podium in the white house in october twenty twenty three and an event announcing a new department of labor rule that would help people save for retirement
Jo Ann Jenkins speaks at the White House in October.
Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

AARP has been fighting to make sure Americans are financially secure after retirement since our founding 65 years ago. It’s been a long, hard road, but we have seen our share of victories, and there are more battles still to win.

That’s why I was pleased when President Joe Biden announced the Department of Labor’s proposed improvement to a key provision of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). AARP believes the rule would provide a more secure and prosperous retirement for millions of Americans.

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The proposed changes, contained in what is called the Retirement Security Rule, are extensive. But at their core is an expansion of the definition of an “investment advice fiduciary.” Put simply, when you are a fiduciary, you are legally obligated to put your client’s interest first. The new rule would expand the products and services for which a financial professional must operate as a fiduciary.

That’s critical. Many Americans seek help to manage their money, and they deserve to have financial advisers whose goal is to protect and grow their savings. Right now, loopholes in the law allow many financial advisers to make investment recommendations that are based on what makes the most money for them, not the person saving for retirement.

spinner image jo ann jenkins chief executive officer of a a r p
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

The proposed rule will better protect millions of American workers and retirees from being involved with financial products that are not in their best interest, such as those with higher fees or inappropriate levels of risk, or just not of a high quality.

It will also ensure that when an employee is doing a one-time transfer of funds to a new type of retirement account — for example, during a rollover from a 401(k) to an IRA — the advice they receive from their provider is in their best interest.

The new rule would cover financial products currently regulated by ERISA but outside the scope of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Best Interest, such as commodities, real estate and insurance products, including annuities.

An update of the rules that govern retirement plans is overdue. Some of the regulations are nearly 50 years old. The definition of investment advice fiduciary was adopted in 1975, when IRAs were new, 401(k) plans didn’t exist and most Americans relied on traditional pensions for retirement savings.

Times have changed dramatically. Today, it is largely workers, not employers, who shoulder the risk and responsibility of choosing investments. Individual plan participants and IRA owners, rather than professional money managers, are expected to make financial decisions. This has become increasingly difficult as financial products have become more numerous and complicated.

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It makes no sense that 401(k)s are under the fiduciary duty protection of ERISA, but 401(k) rollovers into IRAs are not. Consumers are often not aware that advice to roll over their IRAs is not subject to the same protections. As a result, significant value of these accounts can be lost, year by year, in undisclosed fees, commissions or below-par rates of return.

In today’s world, it’s hard enough to save for retirement and achieve your financial goals. We don’t need to make it more difficult by allowing some in the financial industry to take advantage of hardworking Americans.

AARP will continue fighting to ensure that investment professionals put consumers’ ­interests ahead of their personal gain.

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