American Retirement Savings Could Be Much Better

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The personal retirement-savings plans that most Americans use, such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs, are unnecessarily costly and needlessly risky. But instituting another kind of retirement plan that combines the best elements of both defined-contribution and defined-benefit plans—such as the Center for American Progress’s proposed Secure, Accessible, Flexible, and Efficient, or SAFE, Retirement Plan, or the related USA Retirement Funds proposal from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)—could provide a more secure retirement at a far lower cost, according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress.

These two proposals, also known as collective defined-contribution plans, improve upon the 401(k) model in a number of ways. As described in greater detail in a fall 2012 report, titled “Making Saving for Retirement Easier, Cheaper, and More Secure,” CAP’s SAFE Retirement Plan combines elements of a traditional pension—including regular lifetime payments in retirement, professional management, and pooled investing—with elements of a 401(k), such as predictable costs for employers and portability for workers.

Our actuarial analysis finds that CAP’s SAFE Retirement Plan significantly outperforms both 401(k)s and IRAs on cost and risk measures. The results of our study are striking:

  • The SAFE Plan costs only half as much for workers. A worker with a SAFE Plan would have to contribute only half as much of their paycheck as a worker saving in a typical 401(k) plan to have the same likelihood of maintaining their standard of living upon retirement.
  • The SAFE Plan reduces risk dramatically. A worker with a SAFE Plan is nearly 2.3 times as likely to maintain their standard of living in retirement as a worker with a typical 401(k) account making identical contributions.
This article was originally published in .