More than a quarter century ago, Congress enacted the landmark law that still governs
employment-based retirement plans in the United States today—the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
But after more than 25 years of amendments and regulatory embellishments, ERISA gets a
mixed review: Widely praised for achieving its goal of greater retirement security for
those American workers who have pensions, it is simultaneously criticized for contributing
to the demise of the traditional defined benefit corporate pensions that it was created to
secure and encourage.
And whatever the successes and failures of ERISA, the technological and global forces
transforming the American economy are also affecting the retirement asset accumulation and
income security of American workers. These sweeping changes, coupled with the looming
retirement of the post-World War II "baby boom" generation, raise difficult
policy challenges for the nation. Basic issues are involved: the employer-employee
relationship, the ability of companies to attract and retain workers, the benefits
provided to short-service relative to long-service workers, and the future economic
security of an aging American labor force.
What are the developments and trends that are likely to affect retirement plans in the
next 25 years? How will they be likely to affect employers, workers, the government, and
society in general? What is the future of private retirement plans in the United States?
More than a hundred leaders of the retirement and pension sector, employers, labor
representatives, and others examined these questions during the Employee Benefit Research
Institute's December 1, 1999, policy forum on "The Next 25 Years of ERISA: The Future
of Private Retirement Plans." The papers contained in this book, based on the policy
forum's proceedings, explore in detail the history and objectives of retirement plans,
current trends in both defined benefit and defined contribution plans, how technology is
affecting retirement plans, and how the politics of change are likely to affect the future
of retirement plans in the United States.
The Future of Private Retirement Plans provides the most comprehensive review available
today of how the American retirement system is changing, and why.