Tackling Our Retirement-Savings Crisis

"The law also acknowledges the high cost of starting a family, which often takes precedence over retirement savings for younger people. Generally, anyone who withdraws money from a retirement account before he or she has reached the age of 59½ must not only pay all income taxes due but also a 10 percent penalty, unless he or she is withdrawing the money for a specific purpose such as a first-time home purchase, onerous medical expenses, or a list of “hardships.” The SECURE Act removes the penalty for taking $5,000 out for a new child and $10,000 to repay an adult child’s student loans. At the same time, the law makes it harder for workers to withdraw money from an employer-sponsored retirement fund for frivolous purposes, prohibiting plans from offering withdrawal loans via credit cards and other convenient means. Finally, the law nods to many people’s desire to convert their savings into a guaranteed annual income, or “annuity,” once they’ve retired. To encourage employers to offer annuity options, Congress will now protect them from lawsuits should the insurance company become unable to meet its guarantee. Overall, these changes are good, too, but marginal."