08 January 2010

Obama Administration Wants to Annuitize 401k's and IRA's - Mandatory "R Bonds"

As a rule of thumb, the worst possible time to convert lump sum savings into a fixed income annuity would be when interest rates are historically low.

Although products may vary, this is roughly equivalent to buying long term bonds at a time when interest rates are likely to increase, substantially reducing your principal in real terms, and eroding your fixed returns through inflation.

For some reason the Obama Administration is promoting the idea now that there should be some encouragement for Americans to start converting their 401K's and IRA's into annuities, to provide themselves with lifetime income.

The effort is being spear-headed by Mark Iwry of the Treasury and Phyllis Borzi of the Department of Labor. Here is a paper written on the subject by Mark Iwry when he was at the Brookings Institution.

The essence of this paper is that distributions from IRA's and 401K's would automatically be rolled into an annuity providing a monthly income by default.

This concept is known on the Street as the handling fees for meager returns pork barrel pigfest. The Fed likes it because they will undoubtedly get a two year rolling chunk of the people's retirement cash to play with.

Perhaps just rolling those 401K's and IRA's into Social Security or the Long Bond would be what they have in mind. Somehow the panacea of TIPS with inflation defined by the government sounds probable. The drawback perhaps is that this would not generate the highest recurring fees for Wall Street and the FIRE sector, which have to be eyeing that 'cash on the sidelines' hungrily.

How about Patriot Bonds that are fully invested in Mortgage Debt formerly owned by the Fed, with some tranches of Commercial Real Estate to add some zest to the recipe? The Treasury can give this option a small tax break, which can be largely consumed by Wall Street fees and mispricing of risk returns.

And I thought that Greenspan's advice for homeowners to step into ARMs into the knee of the housing bubble was foul.

Here's a modest proposal. Raise the amount of losses from investments that can be deducted from income in one year from $3,000 to $20,000 for individuals and $40,000 filing jointly so mom and pop can clean up their balance sheets. And if they really want to jump start the economy, declare a tax and penalty exemption on the first $150,000 that an individual can withdraw from their IRA or 401K in 2010.

And for God's sake fix the Alternative Minimum Tax levels.

Does it seems as though I have barely given this annuitization effort a chance, a fair hearing, the benefit of the doubt, improperly assumed it might not have the best intentions of the American public at heart?

Are you serious? After Healthcare Reform and TARP? These people in Washington and Wall Street have no shame, much less good intentions, common sense, or a conscience. They are strangling the real economy, slowly but surely.

My model for thinking about this annuitization is that the government wishes to appropriate your savings for a 2.0% return, ex fees and mispriced risk and inflation, as a source of funding for the bailouts of an oversized and insolvent FIRE sector (like AIG) and the imploding pretensions of a global financial elite.

"Officials in the Obama administration are moving quickly to develop the investment infrastructure behind the president’s proposal for mandatory automatic enrollment in individual retirement accounts, which could be supported by the creation of Treasury-issued retirement bonds

J. Mark Iwry, deputy assistant secretary for retirement and health policy at the Department of the Treasury, said that administration officials are exploring some “conservative” options for investing the assets of 78 million Americans that he estimates could be automatically en¬rolled in this “universal” workplace retirement system.

He said that officials have discussed the possibility of making a low-risk life-cycle or target date fund the default investment option for these auto-IRAs, which would be mandatory for employers if they don’t offer a retirement plan to their workers.

But there is also a chance that they could rely on a new form of bond — an “R bond” — as the basic building block for the auto-IRA, Mr. Iwry said in addressing reporters at the Treasury Department in Washington last week.

Administration officials are discussing the exact details of these R bonds, such as their interest rates, maturities and minimums, he noted. These bonds ideally would provide individuals with a source of secure, steady returns that would protect their initial investments."

Administration Explores R Bond For Retirement Accounts - Investment News 7 June 2009

Why have a separate "R Bond" instead of those government bonds they have now called 'Treasuries?' And why have a mandatory universal retirement system when you have this thing called 'Social Security?' Think about it. Sounds like the kind of preparations governments make for things like 'new dollars' after a selective default.

Instead of "Yes We Can" the slogan for the Obama Administration should be "Over One Million Fat Cats Served." And the only difference in the Republicans is the breed of the fat cats whose desires they seek to fulfill. The public has lost its advocacy in Washington, and therefore the integrity of the democratic republic is in peril.

The banks must be restrained, and the financial system reformed, and the economy brought back into balance, before there can be a sustained recovery.
"None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Retiree Annuities May Be Promoted by Obama Aides
By Theo Francis

The government is looking at ways to promote the conversion of 401(k)s and IRAs into steady payment streams after a significant decline in plan balances

(Bloomberg) — The Obama administration is weighing how the government can encourage workers to turn their savings into guaranteed income streams following a collapse in retiree accounts when the stock market plunged.

The U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments will ask for public comment as soon as next week on ways to promote the conversion of 401(k) savings and Individual Retirement Accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams, according to Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Mark Iwry, who are spearheading the effort.

Annuities generally guarantee income until the retiree's death, and often that of a surviving spouse as well. They are designed to protect against the risk that retirees outlive their savings, a danger made clear by market losses suffered by older Americans over the last year, David Certner, legislative counsel for AARP, said in an interview.

"There's a real desire on a lot of people's parts to try to encourage something other than just rolling over a lump sum, to make sure this money will actually last a lifetime," said Certner, legislative counsel for Washington-based AARP, the biggest U.S. advocacy group for retirees.

Promoting annuities may benefit companies that provide them through employers, including ING Groep NV (INGA:NA) and Prudential Financial Inc. (PRU), or sell them directly to individuals, such as American International Group Inc. (AIG), the insurer that has received $182.3 billion in government aid...