Retirement Equity Lab

SCEPA's Retirement Equity Lab, led by economist and retirement expert Teresa Ghilarducci, researches the causes and consequences of the retirement crisis that exposes millions of American workers to experiencing downward mobility in retirement. As a result, SCEPA has developed a policy proposal known as Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRA) to provide stable pensions to the 63 million workers who currently have none.


Project Overview

The Rockefeller Foundation's Campaign for American Workers is supporting innovative work to develop "innovative products and policies to increase economic security within the U.S. workforce, particularly among poor and vulnerable workers." The Foundation has recognized that one of the most critical problems facing the workforce is the inadequate provision of retirement security. The Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) is poised to help solve this problem by advancing policies that will enable all workers to invest regularly for their retirement, including changing tax incentives and subsidies so that all workers have access to the efficient and professional pension institutions available to public sector employees, college professors, and some private sector employees.

Envy is a celebrity deadly sin; many philosophers think it's the worst. Joseph Epstein writes in Envy, "Envy clouds thought, clobbers generosity, precludes any hope of serenity, and ends in shriveling the heart."

Jealous is intensely felt. You are jealous of what someone has. Envy is cold and sneaky.  You are envious for who someone is, not just for what they have. Jealousy about the pensions of government workers spurs you to fight for your own pensions. Envy would spur you to spitefully lobby to cut their pensions. A dose of jealousy helps you; envy hurts us all.

The envy machine is cranked up.

In a November 11, 2010 Newsweek article, reporter Julie Halpert asks experts to share some of the best ways to plan for retirement in a post-recession world. Included in the list of six "What You Should Know Before You Retire," was Teresa Ghilarducci's advice to run a projection.

Retirement USA is a national initiative working for a new retirement system that, along with Social Security, will provide universal, secure, and adequate income for future retirees. Among the proposals being considered by Retirement USA is the Guaranteed Retirement Account plan developed by Teresa Ghilarducci. gives an overview of the work being done by Retirement USA. 

Today, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, Co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, released a draft proposal for federal budgetary reform. They presented their Co-Chair's Proposal in a press meeting announced just this morning - and apparently not endorsed by the other 16 members of the Commission. Bowles and Simpson consider the draft a foundation for concrete debate among the group as they craft the final Commission Report due on December 1st. Whether the other members accept the draft as an initial platform remains to be seen and Obama has declined to comment on the Commission's work until the finalization of the official document.

Bowles and Simpson's attempt forges a comprehensive reform plan that touches every aspect of the federal budget even while they avoid repercussions that would exacerbate our current economic stagnation by planning for changes that take effect no earlier than 2012. The proposal identifies cuts in mandatory as well as discretionary spending, advocates extensive tax reform, and even addresses rising health care costs. Separately, the draft offers suggestions for cuts to Social Security that would have no effect on the federal budget but which would reorganize the program to ensure 100% solvency for the next 75 years. It is an ambitious work.

teresaandcoOn October 18, 2010,SCEPA and The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) joined on Capitol Hill to present a briefing titled, “Federal Budgeting for Retirement Security: Examining Tax Expenditures for 401(k)s and Other Retirement Plans.” The event brought together a bipartisan panel of experts on the issue of tax expenditures and attracted a crowd of congressional staff, economists, advocates, and members of the press.

The event documented the limitations and costs of tax expenditures for private pension funds and presented responsible budgetary reforms for consideration by President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

On July 15, 2010, Teresa Ghilarducci shares an oped in Bloomberg's Businessweek, "Solving a Looming U.S. Retirement Crisis," discussing the failure of the 401(k) and the need for reform through the establishment of Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs) to provide all workers with access to retirement plans at work. 

Journalist Kathleen Pender reports on the political firestorm surrounding the federal government’s inquiry into retirement reform. “The Obama administration is looking for ways to make 401(k) and other defined-contribution plans more like those rapidly disappearing defined-benefit plans, which guarantee retirees a pension for life. One idea under consideration is to encourage or require employers to offer annuities or other "lifetime-income products" as an option in their 401(k) plans.”

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