The Great Debate

Should the U.S. force citizens to save?

By Allison Schrager
December 17, 2013

Americans aren’t saving enough to retire. This gap poses a problem for everyone, not just people who will face near-poverty when they can’t work anymore. Does that merit forcing people to save more?

Aging Americans have a new companion: higher debt

By Helaine Olen
November 18, 2013

I like to joke about the fact that I have a ten-year-old boy at the age when my mother was not only an empty nester, but also an empty nester with a son-in-law. (That would be my husband.)

The real reasons America’s pensions are hurting

By Allison Schrager
October 3, 2013

State and local pension plans are underfunded, in many cases dramatically. Enough so that, in the next decade, many states will have to cut benefits or services, raise taxes, or receive some form of a bailout. Matt Taibbi’s latest in Rolling Stone blames the situation on a convenient villain — Wall Street. But it’s far more complicated than that. State and local plans are underfunded because of terrible accounting standards, local governments who underfunded their plans, and plan trustees who gave away sweeteners that robbed plans of their assets. That is the inherent problem with traditional pensions, or any type of compensation that is back-loaded (payments pledged for the future). It’s too easy to over-promise today and not set enough money aside, but either retirees or taxpayers eventually have to pay up. It’s tempting to blame Wall Street, but that does not solve the problem. It enables public employees to lobby against their own long-term interests.

The biggest unanswered question about retiring in America

By Allison Schrager
September 10, 2013

America has moved to a system where nearly everyone is expected to save and invest for their retirement. Yet remarkably little attention has been paid to the big question: what should people do with their money when they actually retire? Neither the government nor the financial industry has any good answers. This leaves individuals ill-equipped to figure it out for themselves. Before the bulk of baby boomers reach retirement they will need a better solution. That will require the government and the financial industry to define their role in how people finance their retirement.

The real student loan crisis

By Robert Hiltonsmith
August 1, 2013

A month has passed since Congress allowed interest rates on federal student loans to double for some borrowers, increasing the cost of their college educations by as much as $4,500. While the debate continues to focus on the interest rate for future borrowers, it is ignoring the larger problem with student debt: the more than $1 trillion that had already been borrowed before the interest rate debate. This existing debt will continue to drag down borrowers’ financial security, which in turn drags down the entire economy. By how much? Demos, the public policy group where I work, has just released a study that estimates the economic impact of the existing student debt burden, and finds that it may cost the country more than $4 trillion in lost economic activity.

Social Security as solution, not problem

By Josh Freedman
April 3, 2013

Social Security is not the problem – it is the solution.

Washington is filled with talk of a looming “retirement crisis.” The discussion focuses on funding Social Security and usually includes calls to cut benefits – either by changing payout formulas or raising the retirement age.

from Reuters Money:

Retirement investors suffer as economy catches up to Wall Street

August 9, 2011

Retirement investors have struggled with a Jekyll and Hyde economy these past two years, where Dr. Jekyll lives very well on Wall Street while Mr. Hyde runs roughshod over a terrified Main Street.

Public shareholders should wield their power

By Guest Contributor
March 31, 2011

David H. Webber, courtesy BU Photo Services - David H. Webber is a Boston University School of Law professor. The opinions expressed here are his own -

from Reuters Money:

Deficit cutting need not be cruel

December 2, 2010

SPAIN-ECONOMY/Congress needn't be cruel to be kind in cutting the U.S. budget deficit while saving popular programs like Social Security and Medicare.

from DealZone:

Should Ken Lewis get his payday?

October 1, 2009

Ken Lewis started at Bank of America 40 years ago, working his way up from junior credit analyst to the CEO suite. His employment contract at the nation's largest banks obviously predates the government's bailout of Bank of America. Yet pay czar Kenneth Feinberg may have a say on whether he cashes in on retirement benefits and accumulated compensation worth $125 million.