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Michael P. Barry

I was on a long cross-country flight with our Director of Benefits, coming back from a meeting with our lawyers in ongoing litigation (yes, over fees) in California. I lost the coin flip – Charlie got the aisle seat and I was sitting in the middle. And sitting next to me, by the window, was a short... READ MORE
Recently, we showed how the percentage of retirement savings from a worker’s paycheck required to finance an adequate retirement had — for a worker retiring in 2021 — gone up over 50% vs. the amount of a paycheck a worker retiring in 2000 had to save.                       In this... READ MORE
Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series. The first installment appeared here. In my last column, I argued that when ERISA diversification requirements are met, the only remaining prudence issue is price and that, regarding an asset (e.g., stock in a company) that is traded in a... READ MORE
The Biden Department of Labor (DOL) has published a series of pronouncements—revised regulations on ESG, a “Supplemental Statement” on private equity, a Compliance Assistance Release on “Cryptocurrencies,” and a request for information on “Climate-Related Financial Risk”—all raising or “clarifying... READ MORE
I’d like to start what is likely to be a series of columns on the possibility that we are or may be moving to a provider-based retirement benefit system.  What problems might be solved by such a change? And what challenges might be created? I want to begin with a consideration of our current... READ MORE
As the new year begins, here are the big retirement policy challenges we’re facing, in my view. Note that these are our long-run problems—as opposed to, say, clarifying the rules on ESG investments or for fiduciaries who provide advice. The Challenge of the Transitions  We have gone from a Baby... READ MORE
In its 2017 Employee Benefit Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 36% of workers in traditional defined benefit plans had an option at normal retirement to take a lump sum benefit, as did 90% of workers in non-traditional DB plans (cash balance and pension equity plans). To understand... READ MORE
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen steadily throughout 2021, with prices in October 2021 6.2% higher than at the beginning of the year. We have all been pretty much ignoring inflation as a retirement savings/income risk for some time. Understandably, since inflation for the last decade has... READ MORE
The possibility of needing long-term care—basically, needing to live in a nursing home or needing in-home nursing services—is a significant, and largely unpredictable, retirement security challenge.  The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) projects a baseline estimate (assuming no change in... READ MORE
Retirement savings—in an IRA, a 401(k) plan, or a defined benefit plan—is, in the end, a project that involves turning present income, via savings and investment, into future income. As such, it inevitably involves the capital markets. And, indeed, it is often hard to sort out whether any... READ MORE
In the early 1980s, I worked at a very big company that introduced one of the first 401(k) plans. To give the plan an appealing “brand,” the company called it The Capital Accumulation Plan. I think that is a pretty accurate (and effective) way of describing how a lot of employees, especially the... READ MORE
While Hughes involves 403(b) plans, the issues in it are effectively identical to those in the 401(k) fee litigation that has plagued our industry for nearly two decades. On July 2, 2021, the Supreme Court agreed to review Seventh Circuit’s decision affirming dismissal of plaintiffs’ case for... READ MORE
In May, the heads of two key congressional retirement policy committees—Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chair of the House Committee on Education & Labor Committee—sent a letter to the U.S.... READ MORE
I think interest rates—now at historic lows—are going to remain low (perhaps with some transitory upticks for inflation) for a very long time. And that means that it will be harder, that is, it will cost more, for Americans to retire.  Here’s why. The Impact on Retirement(s) Let’s begin with why... READ MORE
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) which included significant single employer defined benefit plan interest rate stabilization/funding relief.  The changes to ERISA DB funding requirements in ARPA were the culmination of a policy project... READ MORE
How do/should we “value” environmental and social governance (ESG) investments? Here’s how the Department of Labor (DOL) summarizes its final ESG regulation: “The amendments [revising ERISA fiduciary rules to restrict ESG investments] require plan fiduciaries to select investments and investment... READ MORE
On Dec. 18, 2020, the (Trump) Department of Labor (DOL) released Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 2020-02, “Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees.” Among other things, PTE 2020-02 radically “reinterpreted” (and broadened) the five-part test under DOL’s 1975 regulation... READ MORE
Traditional defined benefit plans ended 2020 modestly in the black, after spending most of the year underwater. The story has been a significant decline in interest rates (about 75 basis points) and an increase in liabilities (11%-15%, depending on duration), offset by an increase in asset values—... READ MORE