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Make retirement election issue

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, May 21, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

Retirement security has the potential to emerge as a significant issue in the upcoming presidential election.

A new Gallup poll of voters puts the performance of Americans' savings and retirement accounts as No. 6 on the list of economic concerns facing the country today. The top five are health care, unemployment, the federal budget, weak economic growth and the cost of a college education.

Gallup also asked people to rank how they thought the two likely candidates for president measured up on handling these issues. Most people think neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney have a strong position on retirement issues, according to this poll.

Meanwhile, Paychex, a firm that manages payrolls for small businesses, sent out a media announcement this morning saying its clients are concerned that an upshot of the upcoming election will be a mandate for employers to provide automatic individual retirement accounts or 401(k)s. Paychex says its customers believe such a mandate would make it harder to do business.

From a retirement planning perspective, it is clear that this kind of automatic savings really does result in broader participation and higher balances. But none of us ordinary folks are out there lobbying in support of these kinds of programs.

And concerns not being raised in either of these discussions are the futures of Social Security and Medicare. The long-term solvency of both of these popular programs is a much bigger issue than either mandated retirement accounts or rates of return on savings accounts.

You might have already noted that neither candidate has been very outspoken about how to fix these plans. That's probably because no solution is going to please everybody -- or attract lots of happy voters. But we who hope to continue to benefit from these programs need solutions a lot more than we need the government to weigh in on ways to encourage savings or up savings rates.

As the election gets closer, we owe it to ourselves to speak up and insist that these topics are front and center in the election conversation -- and not let either candidate ignore important retirement-related issues vital to our well-being in the long term.

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