President's Letters

May 19, 2022

2022 Retirement Summit: Making the Retirement System Work for Everyone


Shortly before the passage of the 2006 Pension Protection Act, I had the honor of presenting at the 2006 Saver Summit, which was conducted by the Department of Labor under the Savings Are Vital to Everyone’s Retirement Act of 1997. The purpose of the SAVER Act was to advance the public’s knowledge and understanding of the importance of retirement savings. Then-Secretary-of-Labor Elaine Chao summarized the Summit as “[bringing] together more than 200 statutory and appointed delegates as a nonpartisan group with diverse expertise ... to explore ways to help all Americans retire with security and dignity.” The Summit was meant to educate and motivate people to develop their own personal retirement saving strategies, and to develop recommendations to help individuals overcome obstacles and take advantage of opportunities to save for their futures.

More than 16 years later, much has been accomplished in the U.S. retirement system. Yet, arguably there is still a great deal more to do to achieve the dream of a sound savings system that involves a public/private partnership that will allow American workers to achieve financial security in retirement and throughout their working and retirement years. Namely:

  • While efforts such as the Economic Growth and Tax Reconciliation Relief Act of 2001 (EGTRRA), the Pension Protection Act, and the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act have sought to improve the system, American workers still face a $3.68 trillion retirement deficit.[1]
  • Questions around the efficacy of the 401(k) system specifically — and the retirement savings system generally — in the United States include (but are not limited to) accessibility by individuals working for small companies, women, minorities, part-timers, non-W2 workers, and others; leakage from the system in the form of loans and cashouts; decumulation from the system by retirees; medical expenses’ and debt’s impacts on retirement and savings in general; and the need for emergency savings among American workers.

The bottom line is that piecemeal efforts to address gaps in the retirement system are not sufficient. Further, asking individuals to overcome obstacles on their own without sufficient support from the system — as we did in the 2006 Saver Summit — is tantamount to asking someone to learn to fix their car without giving them the right tools. Clearly, it is time to revisit the state of the retirement system from a holistic perspective: What is it missing, and what does it need to look like to achieve retirement income security for all American workers?

Joined by representatives of the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Employee Benefit Research Institute is hosting a Retirement Summit in December 2022 to address this important topic. The event will convene high-ranking thought leaders in the retirement industry, as well as among employers, consultants, policymakers, regulators, and academics to tackle the important challenge of creating a more integrated, equitable, and effective U.S. retirement system.

It Is Time to Think Big

Countries such as the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand have sought to create a holistic, comprehensive plan for a long-term, implementable vision of a public/private savings system that will better meet the needs of their work force and retirees. It is time the U.S. did so as well. The 2022 Retirement Summit will:

  • Broadly re-envision the structure of the private and public retirement systems so that together they meet the savings needs of all American workers — including self-employed workers.
  • Address the larger financial wellness needs of American workers, including debt, medical expenses, and emergency savings (pre- and post-retirement).
  • Tackle the needs of a growing population of retirees as they draw down from the retirement system.

The 2022 Retirement Summit will bring together leading retirement and savings experts, policymakers, and innovators, including:

  • Policymakers who are leading efforts to improve retirement and savings outcomes.
  • Regulators across agencies focused on retirement and savings system change.
  • Academics engaged in cutting-edge work in the retirement and savings area.
  • Service providers to retirement and other savings plans.
  • CEOs with a focus on retirement and savings.
  • Leaders within retirement and savings associations.
  • Other retirement and savings experts across the U.S. and abroad.

The goals of the 2022 Retirement Summit are lofty, but EBRI, its Board, representatives such as Kathleen Kennedy Townsend of the Department of Labor, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others believe it is time to take on this challenge.

If you are interested in participating in the 2022 Retirement Summit, please let me know!


Lori Lucas
President and CEO



[1] VanDerhei, Jack, “Impact of Various Legislative Proposals and Industry Innovations on Retirement Income Adequacy,” EBRI Issue Brief, no. 550 (Employee Benefit Research Institute, January 20, 2022).