Commentary & Opinion

Retirement Savings Shouldn’t Be a Political Piggy Bank

Maintaining adequate retirement income is hard enough

July 29, 2019 — ARLINGTON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Middle-class American retirements are being targeted to pay for another political promise – the latest being a “Medicare for All” proposal from U.S. Senator Kamala Harris. Harris, a Democratic presidential aspirant, claims to raise “well over $2 trillion” over a 10-year period to pay for her proposal through a few measures, including a financial transactions tax on stock and bond trading, which – though it’s described as directed at “investors and big banks” – would also include the “investors” called American retirement savers and the hard-earned money set aside in their 401(k), IRAs, and pensions.

“American workers aren’t day-traders,” explains Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association (ARA). “At a time when lawmakers claim to be so concerned about retirement income adequacy and the impact of 401(k) fees, it’s stunning that some would attack the retirement savings of hard-working Americans.”

A Tax On Investment Transactions

At the same time, Harris is not the first presidential aspirant seeking to pay for a proposal with a sweeping tax on investment transactions with no apparent exception for retirement accounts. Earlier this year U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) co-sponsored the Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2019, which claimed to generate up to $2.4 trillion in “public revenue from wealthy investors” to help pay for a program that would underwrite student loan debt forgiveness. Additionally, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is a co-sponsor of the Wall Street Tax Act, which purports to raise an approximate $755 billion over a decade to help pay for infrastructure improvements – again by including the stocks and bonds held within the trillions of dollars of retirement savings invested every payday in mutual funds and collective investment trusts by pensions and 401(k)s by middle-income Americans.

American workers aren’t day-traders...

How much difference could it make in retirement savings? Based on a 2015 report by the Obama Administration’s Council of Economic Advisors on the impact of 401(k) fees, these kind of taxes could reduce an American’s retirement savings by as much as 3% over their working life.

“Every week millions of Americans sacrifice to set aside part of their hard-earned pay for retirement, investing those savings to help provide a secure financial future,” Graff continues. “After years of attacking 401(k) plan fees, some members of Congress – and those with an eye on the White House – now want to charge a fee every time a hard-working American contributes part of their pay into their 401(k). Saving for retirement is hard work. And Congress shouldn’t work to make it any harder.”




About the American Retirement Association
The American Retirement Association, based in the Washington, D.C. area, is a non-profit professional organization established to empower retirement plan professionals who are dedicated to building a better retirement for Americans. The American Retirement Association is comprised of five premier retirement industry associations; the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), the ASPPA College of Pension Actuaries (ACOPA), the National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA), the National Tax-deferred Savings Association (NTSA), and the Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA). For more information, visit