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Getting It Right

Protecting the retirement security of hardworking Americans is an important bipartisan priority. This week, the Committee on Education and the Workforce will consider a bipartisan legislative solution that will do just that. This effort stands in stark contrast to the extreme, partisan approach underway at the Department of Labor.

For years, the department has worked to put together a regulatory proposal that would protect individuals working with a financial advisor to plan for retirement. Unfortunately, each attempt has fallen flat. Instead of helping workers and job creators plan for the future, the department’s proposals would:

  • Severely restrict the ability of individuals to receive some of the most basic financial advice, such as assistance in rolling over funds from a 401(k) to an IRA;

  • Deny many small business owners the help they need to offer their employees a retirement plan; and

  • Make it harder, if not impossible, for low- and middle-income families to access affordable retirement advice.

That’s why policymakers on both sides of the aisle have repeatedly called on the department to take a different approach, one that will protect the best interests of all Americans. Most recently, nearly 100 House Democrats wrote to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, saying:

[W]e continue to hear from constituents, academics, providers, and investors that there are specific provisions of the Rule that may cause market disruptions and limit the ability of segments of the market to reasonably access advice … In order to have a successfully implemented rule, it is vital that the proposal doesn’t limit consumer choice and access to advice, have a disproportionate impact on lower- or middle-income communities, or raise the costs of saving for retirement … We urge the Department to continue to seek a balanced approach to both consumer protection and access to retirement investment advice for all Americans. 

Still, the department just can’t seem to get it right. Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats in the House worked together to do what the department couldn’t: put forward a responsible solution that will ensure financial advisors serve their clients’ best interests while also preserving access to affordable retirement advice. These complementary, bipartisan proposals will:

  • Strengthen retirement planning by requiring financial advisors to serve their clients’ best interests;

  • Enhance transparency and accountability through clear, simple, and relevant disclosure requirements;

  • Ensure small business owners continue receiving the help they need to provide retirement plans for their employees; and

  • Protect access to high-quality, affordable retirement advice so more Americans can retire with the dignity and financial security they deserve.

As Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) explained while developing the legislative solution:

Our proposal will strengthen retirement security, but, unlike the department’s approach, it will do so without hurting working families and small businesses … We believe that financial advisors should look out for their clients’ best interest, but we also believe the rules governing financial advice should do no harm to those saving for retirement.

The Department of Labor has wasted too many opportunities. It’s time to get it right.

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