Elizabeth Warren And Your Retirement Savings

Occasionally I post an article that I have no understanding of. This is one of those articles. I am posting it because the source and headline are an indication to me that this is important information.

Yesterday Forbes posted an article detailing how Elizabeth Warren intends to change your retirement funds if she is elected. Keep in mind that she is rapidly becoming the Democrat front-runner. The dust up about Biden and the Ukraine may be the party’s effort to remove Biden (because he is not looking electable) and replace him with Warren.

The article reports:

So, as it turns out, Elizabeth Warren’s Social Security expansion proposal is not the only one of her plans to affect Americans’ retirement well-being. But the proposal of hers which will affect Americans’ retirement savings, in their 401(k)s and their IRAs and the funded status of their pension plans (which might be irrelevant for single-employer traditional pension plans guaranteed by employers but matters considerably for multi-employer plans), is tucked away in a component of her platform with the harmless-looking title, “Empowering Workers Through Accountable Capitalism.”

It’s a proposal that’s a repeat of legislation she proposed in 2018, the “Accountable Capitalism Act,” which, as it happens, I dug into at the time on another platform. The most nebulous part of the proposal is the notion that large corporations would be obliged to pursue the “best interests” of a long list of entities, not merely shareholders but also employees, suppliers, customers, the local communities where the companies locations are based, and others, with the fundamental premise that such a corporation “shall have the purpose of creating a general public benefit.” But however much writers such as Kevin D. Williamson decried this as “the wholesale expropriation of private enterprise in the United States” this all appears to be aspirational and symbolic, without any enforcement mechanism included in the legislation, or administrative agency named to ensure the corporation is indeed “creating a public benefit.”

What is far more concrete is a requirement that such “United States corporations,” that is, those with over $1 billion in revenue, would be obliged to bring onto their boards of directors, representatives elected by employees, at a minimum ratio of 40% of the total board members. The website declares:

“Elizabeth’s plan gives workers a big voice in all corporate decisions, including those about outsourcing, wages, and investment,”

and references Germany as an example of a country with a similar approach.

In an abstract way, of course, directors are bound to represent shareholders; if 40% of board members no longer represent the shareholders, than this is, in effect, taking away from shareholders the ownership of 40% of the company. But this is more than just an abstract impact. How much of a difference would it make?

The article explains that Elizabeth Warren’s plans would reduce the value of the stocks. In the German model, only the wealthy own stocks

The article concludes:

Take a look at the estimates from Pensions & Investments: 80% of stock market equity is held by institutions: that means, mutual funds, pension funds, 401(k)s, and the like. In particular, 37% of stock is owned by retirement accounts; when subtracting out foreign owners of US stock (26% of the total), 50% of US-owned US equities are owned within retirement funds. And it should go without saying that there is no way to “punish” the wealthy by causing the value of only the stock they own to go south while somehow protecting the 401(k) and other retirement accounts for the rest of us. It’s cutting off your nose to spite your face and, as someone with a 401(k) account, I’d really prefer not to do this.

As I said, I don’t fully understand what this is all about, but I do know that as many Americans lose faith in our Social Security system, they are creating 401(k) accounts and other holdings in preparation for retirement. I have a feeling that if Ms. Warren is elected, none of us will be able to retire.

There Will Always Be Some Excuse Not To Prepare For The Future

Somewhere along the line, our students have been taught that because of climate change, the world is going to end before they reach a ripe old age. Somehow the idea that the earth’s climate goes through cycles is not mentioned. Also not mentioned is the fact that in the past the earth’s climate has changed drastically, and we are still here. Remember, they have found plant fossils deep under the ice in Greenland. Aside from the destruction of the scientific method, what our children are being taught also has real-world consequences.

Marketwatch posted an article yesterday with the following headline, “Young people blame climate change for their small 401(k) balances.”

The article reports:

Lori Rodriguez, a 27-year-old communications professional in New York City, is not saving for retirement, and it isn’t necessarily because she can’t afford to — it’s because she doesn’t expect it to matter.

Like many people her age, Rodriguez believes climate change will have catastrophic effects on our planet. Some 88% of millennials — a higher percentage than any other age group — accept that climate change is happening, and 69% say it will impact them in their lifetimes. Engulfed in a constant barrage of depressing news stories, many young people are skeptical about saving for an uncertain future.

“I want to hope for the best and plan for a future that is stable and secure, but, when I look at current events and at the world we are predicting, I do not see how things could not be chaotic in 50 years,” Rodriguez says. “The weather systems are already off, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to be a little apocalyptic.”

It’s a fairly safe bet that Social Security will not exist by the time she is old enough to retire, so if the world chooses not to end before then, she will be up a creek without a paddle.

The article lists other consequences of what our children are taught regarding climate change:

Mental-health issues affecting young adults and adolescents in the U.S. have increased significantly in the past decade, a study published in March in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found. The number of individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 reporting symptoms of major depression increased 52% from 2005 to 2017, while older adults did not experience any increase in psychological stress at this time, and some age groups even saw decreases. Study author Jean Twenge says this may be attributed to the increased use of digital media, which has changed modes of interaction enough to impact social lives and communication. Millennials are also said to suffer from “eco-anxiety,” according to a 2018 report from the American Psychological Association, with 72% saying their emotional well-being is affected by the inevitability of climate change, compared with just 57% of people over the age of 45.

The article concludes:

Similarly, Rodriguez said that, even without the threat of climate change, she likely couldn’t afford to save for retirement — and might not need to. Because she comes from a Latina family, she says culturally it is expected she would move in with family in old age and not have to pay as much in retirement costs.

“Both of my parents are immigrants. I did not grow up in a culture of professionalism. I graduated with thousands in student loans — I have never made enough money to save for the future,” she says.

Although she does not save money for retirement, Rodriguez does take action for the future: she’s taught herself to garden (“in case of a total collapse of the food system,” she says) and invests in learning hands-on skills like mechanics and bike repair.

“It’s kind of my own version of retirement,” she says.

Erin Lowry, author of “Broke Millennial Takes On Investing,” recommends preparing for retirement no matter what you believe will happen, referencing the Y2K phenomenon, when some people sold their belongings and made other rash choices in the belief that the world would end with the dawn of the year 2000.

“Even if you have a defeatist mind-set about the future of the planet, it’s better to prepare as though you, and the planet, will survive into your retirement years because the alternative is also bleak,” she said. “Failing to properly plan for a future means guaranteeing yourself a more difficult life.”

The baby boomers survived hiding under their desks in case of nuclear attack and the Vietnam war. We grew up to be tough old birds (with a few exceptions). I don’t think the problem here is the teaching on climate change–I think the problem is raising children without the moral foundation our country was built on. I also think parents need to let their children fail occasionally. Everyone shouldn’t get a trophy.

This Is Just Wrong

The Congressional Budget Office website has posted a suggestion for cutting our military spending. As usual, it is a suggestion that does nothing to solve the bureaucracy problem–it just takes money away from people who were actually promised benefits.

Aside from the toll twenty or more years in the military takes on families, it also takes a physical toll on the soldiers. Many of our retiring soldiers also collect disability pay for various injuries suffered in the course of their service. These injuries include war injuries, but they also include more simple (but often painful) injuries acquired in the various physical requirements of service. Under the current program, soldiers with injuries collect disability pay (the amount is based on the severity of the injuries) as well as retirement pay. The Obama Administration is wanting to change that.

The article explains:

Military service members who retire—either following 20 or more years of military service under the longevity-based retirement program or early because of a disability—are eligible for retirement annuities from the Department of Defense (DoD). In addition, veterans with medical conditions or injuries that were incurred or worsened during active-duty military service (excluding those resulting from willful misconduct) are eligible for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Until 2003, military retirees who were eligible for disability compensation could not receive both their full retirement annuity and their disability compensation. Instead, they had to choose between receiving their full retirement annuity from DoD or receiving their disability benefit from VA and forgoing an equal amount of their DoD retirement annuity; that reduction in the retirement annuity is generally referred to as the VA offset. Because the retirement annuity is taxable and disability compensation is not, most retirees chose the second alternative.

As a result of several laws, starting with the National Defense Authorization Act for 2003, two classes of retired military personnel who receive VA disability compensation (including those who retired before the enactment of those laws) can now receive payments that make up for part or all of the VA offset, benefiting from what is often called concurrent receipt. Specifically, retirees whose disabilities arose from combat are eligible for combat-related special compensation (CRSC), and veterans who retire with 20 or more years of military service and who receive a VA disability rating of 50 percent or more are eligible for what is termed concurrent retirement and disability pay (CRDP). CRSC is exempt from federal taxes, but CRDP is not; some veterans would qualify for both types of payments but must choose between the two.

This option would eliminate concurrent receipt of retirement pay and disability compensation beginning in 2015: Military retirees currently drawing CRSC or CRDP would no longer receive those payments, nor would future retirees. As a result, the option would reduce federal spending by $108 billion between 2015 and 2023, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

This is not the place to cut government spending. One of the things President Obama has done in office has been to undo the welfare reforms put in place by the Clinton Administration. Going back to those regulations, which actually decreased welfare rolls and put people back to work, would seriously reduce government spending. We need to give money to people who have earned it–not people who have not. When Congress recently did not extend the amount of time people could collect unemployment, unemployment went down. When you reward a behavior, it increases. We need to learn that lesson if we are ever going to cut government spending.

 

Further Information On The COLA Cuts To Military Pensions

As someone with a family member in the military, the cuts to the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) on military pensions hit close to home. Not only are they the ONLY cuts made in the budget agreement, they also represent a broken promise to our military troops. One of the best articles I have seen on the subject is posted at Allen West’s website.

The article reminds us that the four retired senior officers — three generals and one admiral–who supported the cut would not be impacted by the change in the rules. However, there are some retired senior enlisted men who are impacted who are speaking out.

One of those senior enlisted men shares the story of a friend who landed a high-paying job with a defense contractor in the same field he worked in on active duty:

But several years later, the company went bankrupt, and Hoynes, a former chief operations specialist, found himself jobless. Now Hoynes and his wife must rely on his $1,600-a-month military retirement pay (after taxes, health care and insurance payments) and her small retail salary to pay the bills.

If the cost-of-living adjustment reduction to military retired pay included in the Bipartisan Budget Act goes into effect in December 2015, the retired chief, now 50, stands to lose as much as $55,000 in retirement pay over his lifetime.

This is obscene simply on the facts, but it is even more obscene that it represents a broken promise to our military.

Allen West also points out:

There are close to 350,000,000 Americans and 840,000 have to be sacrificed to support the legislative budgetary process? That’s two-tenths of a percent. All over $6 billion? You mean to tell me that lawmakers in Washington DC — Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray specifically — could not find $6 billion dollars elsewhere? Hmm, will one of them explain to retired Chief Chip Hoynes and his wife that a Member of Congress only needs to serve 5 years to earn 70 percent retirement, for life (since it goes to the spouse upon death of the Member)?

This needs to be corrected as soon as Congress resumes. Otherwise the Republicans who signed on to this deal should be quickly voted out of office.

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The Personal Impact Of The Budget Deal–One Person’s Story

Somehow because of the size of our government and the amount of money taken from taxpayers to run it, we sometimes forget what some of the spending represents. Every now and then it’s a good idea to look at a story that illustrates where the money goes and why. Here is a story that explains one aspect of government spending.

Stacy Huisman posted an article at Militaryspouse.com recently. The article explains how the recent budget deal will impact her husband’s retirement pay and her family. The money cut from his retirement pay was the money they had planned to use to pay for their children’s’ college education. Please follow the link above to read the entire article. It illustrates beautifully the price our military families pay when one of their family members serves in the military.

There are a few aspects to the cut to retirement pay. First of all, that retirement pay was promised to our military when they signed up–they earned it. It was assumed that the cost of living increases in that pay were included in that promise. There is also the aspect of the price military families pay for having a family member in the military for twenty or more years. One on my own granddaughters is in fifth grade. She started attending her third elementary school in six years in September. Another granddaughter is in third grade. She is attending her second elementary school in three years. That is a high price to pay. She is living near her grandparents (my husband and I) because we chose to move to be close to her family–not because her family had a choice as to where they would live.

The thing that really bothers me about the budget deal is that military retirement was cut, but civil service retirement was not cut. Public sector workers make more than private sector workers to begin with. The public sector workers are now required to contribute a small amount to their pensions–something private sector workers have been doing for years, but they are still better compensated than the private sector.

The chart below is taken from a 2010 post by the Congressional Budget Office. As you can see, unless you have an advanced degree, it pays to work for the government.

 

The budget did not need to be cut at the expense of our military–there was enough pork in the public sector to avoid breaking a promise to those military families who serve our country.

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Just For The Record

Social Security and Medicare are not entitlement programs! Those of us who are retirement age or rapidly approaching retirement age have been paying into Social Security since we first began working and Medicare since it was enacted. How much money has the average welfare recipient paid into welfare? What has the government done with the money we have paid into those programs over the years?

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This Is Not The Way To Balance The Budget–Ever!!!!!

 

CBS News reported yesterday that there have been high level meetings held at the Pentagon recently discussing an overhaul of the military retirement system. In general terms, an active duty military member who retires after twenty years of active duty receives half of his pay as retirement income regardless of his age. Before you get too excited about this, I would like to point out that a level E-6 enlisted military member with 20 years of service earns $3533.40 per month. That would make his retirement approximately $1700 a month.  An senior officer at level O-8 with 20 years of service earns $12762.30 a month.  That would make his retirement roughly $6000 a month.

Now let’s look at Congress. The current salary (2011) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year. A full pension is available to Members 62 years of age with 5 years of service; 50 years or older with 20 years of service; or 25 years of service at any age. In 2002, the average Congressional pension payment ranged from $41,000 to $55,000.

Let’s look at the military retirement system. It provides incentive for people to stay in the military for 20 years in spite of the hardships–family separations, combat tours, living away from extended family, moving every two to four years, low pay, etc. Taking away the current military retirement system would result in fewer senior officers and enlisted people who function as leaders in the military. It would negatively impact the quality of our military forces.

Unfortunately Congress sets the rules for its retirement program and the military retirement program. It is rather obvious that Congress is looking out for itself while it plans on giving our military the shaft. If Congress seriously considers changing military retirement, I will work to make sure every Congressman who votes for the change is voted out of office in 2012 or whenever he runs for re-election.

This is obscene!

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