Providing Independent Advice Could Fortify 401(k) System, Congressman Says

By Staff Report

Apr. 9, 2009

A key lawmaker involved in setting retirement policy is angling to strengthen the 401(k) system by providing individual investors with increased access to independent investment advice.

Rep. Robert Andrews, D-New Jersey, speaking in New York on Tuesday, April 7, at a retirement seminar sponsored by Barclays Global Investors of San Francisco, said that despite more than $2 trillion in losses over the past year, the 401(k) system is not broken. It just needs some minor, and rather immediate, adjustments to empower individual investors, said Andrews, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment Labor and Pensions.

He plans to push an agenda through Congress that will strengthen the defined-contribution system by encouraging employers to hire more independent investment advisors for their 401(k) participants.

In a 401(k) system, participants essentially are asked to act as their own “pension board of trustees” and make key investment decisions almost entirely on their own, Andrews said.

“Yet most of us are woefully equipped to do this,” he said.

If more companies provided employees with access to independent investment advice, 401(k) participants would make better fundamental decisions about managing their retirement savings accounts and ultimately have more confidence in the 401(k) system, Andrews said.

“I don’t think we should confuse a lack of confidence in the economy with a lack of confidence in the [401(k)] system,” he said, contradicting the notion that the 401(k) system needs an overhaul to prevent workers from sustaining massive losses in their retirement accounts.

Filed by Mark Bruno of Investment News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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