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Fund Forward

Editor's Desk: Fear of Elimination of Social Security Could Boost Mutual Fund Flows

Let's hope Social Security remains a fixture on the American scene. There are too many senior citizens dependent on it, and with $1 million seeming to be the magic retirement savings goal, a vast majority are going to fall far short of that. In fact, some experts have said that even wealthy investors will be at least partially dependent on Social Security.

But given the expectation among an overwhelming majority of Americans that Social Security will default, it could help boost mutual fund sales. Certainly, the industry doesn't need to increase fear among investors that they could be impoverished in their senior years, but the fear is certainly there.

Less than 20% of those under the age of 55 think Social Security will exist once they retire, and only 56% of those age 55 or older think it will, according to a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll of 2,242 adults.

Forty-five of all respondents said they don't believe either the Republicans or the Democrats will successfully address the Social Security funding crisis, but 38% said the Democrats will, and 17% held out hope that the Republicans will step up to the plate.

Despite this gloomy outlook on Social Security, few are planning to do much on their own to shore up for retirement. Only half said they plan to invest in a 401(k), and only 40% expect income from a 401(k) plan. Those with higher education appear to be better prepared for retirement, with only 4% of college graduates and 13% with some college education saying they do not have any retirement savings. Thirty percent of those with a high school diploma or less have nothing saved.

The survey also looked into investors' attitudes toward the government and employers vis-a-vis retirement. Thirty-eight percent believe the government should require employers to set aside more money for pension plans, and 49% said the government should increase tax breaks for people who save outside of work. Forty-seven percent said the government should increase Social Security payments.

The mutual fund industry needs to find the right approach. Firms overwhelm investors with frightening information about the consequences of not saving for retirement. The emphasis should be on how to help investors achieve retirement safety.

(c) 2007 Money Management Executive and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.mmexecutive.com http://www.sourcemedia.com

Recent Posts

Mutual Funds Must Go High-Tech-v. 3.0

Over the last number of years, mutual fund transfer agencies and shareholder communications companies have tried to convince shareholders to accept paperless summary prospectuses, proxies, trade confirmations and electronically stamped signatures. Fund supermarkets and web home pages have broadened their horizons to include market commentary, videostreaming and personal financial news. At the same time, exchange-traded funds, funds-of-funds, hedge FoFs, unified managed accounts, target dates, 401(k) auto enrollment and heightened awareness among people throughout the country of the difficulties of being retired-have taken off.

Test of the Massey Mine

Fund giant boards of directors at AllianceBernstein, American Funds, Fidelity, Vanguard and others are reportedly starting to bring about meaningful change in the corporations in which they are invested. Proof should come any day now, when the shareholder proxy votes from the annual meetings are released. Fund chief executive officers spoke about the power and influence their proxies wield in an interesting Reuters article last week, "Mutual Funds Seek to Shed 'Rubber Stamp' Tag."

Milestones

In 2011, 401(k) plans will turn 30, but the milestones the mutual fund industry has reached in this time are but a nanosecond in the history of U.S. retirement policy. Executives we interviewed for this special edition of Money Management Executive for the Investment Company Institute's meeting in Washington, speak to important milestones of the recent past and into the future. Look inside for observations and forecasts by Ted Benna, Robert L. Reynolds, Dan Fuss, David C. John, Steven Miyao and others.

At Age 30, It's Time for a Revamping for the 401(k)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 401(k), the revolutionary retirement savings vehicle that has been annihilating pension plans, empowering individuals to take part in the stock market-and, sadly, that left retirees with the misfortune of leaving the workforce in 2000 or 2008 very badly off. The cracks in the system are prompting many asset managers, regulators and retirement experts to take a hard look at 401(k)s and how they can be fixed.

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Lee Barney

Lee Barney served as editor of Money Management Executive from 2002 to 2010. Previously, at United Media’s Wall Street & Technology magazine and Risk/Waters Information Services, she covered financial IT. For TheStreet.com, she wrote the daily “Meet the Street” column covering a broad spectrum of market-moving events. Lee began her career as a reporter in Tokyo with The Japan Times and was executive editor of Spotlight magazine.