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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stevens Talks Saints, Snow and 401ks

Reported by InvestmentWires Staff, 

Speaking before NICSA conference attendees on Monday afternoon, ICI president Paul Schott Stevens discussed ways to improve the 401(k) system. And being a son of the Crescent City and head of a Washington, D.C.-based trade group, Stevens also couldn't resist working the Super Bowl champs New Orleans Saints and the record snow in D.C. into his talk.

"I have been reflecting lately on the remarkable times in which we are living," Stevens told the 500-plus attendees at the conference in Miami.

"Only weeks ago, would anyone have predicted the Bay State choosing Scott Brown to take the seat vacated by Ted Kennedy?...At the start of this season, would anyone have predicted that the Saints would beat the Colts so convincingly in the Super Bowl? Then there’s Washington’s average yearly snowfall –- 17 inches. Two weeks ago, would anyone have predicted that this winter would set a new record at 56 inches –- and counting?"

Discussing 401(k)s, Stevens noted the system's strengths and mentioned key findings from an ICI survey he first unveiled last month at a panel in Washington.

"The results of ICI's research were quite striking," he told the NICSA crowd. "Among the households that expressed an opinion, nine out of 10 said they had a favorable impression of 401(k) and similar retirement accounts."

He later touched on how the 401(k) system can be improved, such as in the area of disclosure.

Another issue, Stevens said, is the challenge of managing savings in DC plans and IRAs during retirement.

The Labor and Treasury departments are soliciting comment on whether they should encourage or require retirees to convert some of their account balances to annuities. The ICI has yet to respond to the request for information.

"But when we do, we will make three key points: Americans don't want or need a mandate to purchase annuities; any incentives for annuity options should also apply to products that arrange systematic withdrawals from plan assets, and what Americans do need and want more of is information and access to advice that will help them make informed decisions about managing their assets and income in retirement," Stevens said. 

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