With federal budget negotiations over the
fiscal cliff perceived to pose a serious threat
to retirement benefits, an industry lobbying group is rapidly
building grassroots support to preserve them.
The Arlington, Virginiabased American Society of
Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), which represents
11,000 professionals who service 401(k) plans including
plan administrators, consultants, attorneys, actuaries and
accountants has launched a Save My
401(k) campaign whose goal is to generate 250,000 email
messages from participants in 401(k) plans to their members of
Congress over the coming six months, according to Brian Graff,
executive director and chief executive officer of ASPPA. The
campaign has generated close to 40,000 email messages so
Participants are helping us deliver the message that
retirement incentives are important and [members of Congress]
need to be very careful if they are thinking of cutting
them, Graff says.
The campaigns scope appears to be unprecedented in the
world of Washington organizations that defend retirement
benefits. Nothing like that has been tried before in the
retirement world, contends Graff.
The target audience for the campaign is large 70
million plan participants. We wanted to get regular
participants, average Americans, who care about their 401(k)s
to express their concerns to their members of Congress,
ASPPA began considering a grassroots campaign early in the
year, as members began to worry that Congress might severely
curtail limits on tax-deferred contributions to 401(k) plans in
the ongoing and contentious battle over federal budget deficits
The current annual limit for individual contributions to
401(k) plans is $17,000, while employees aged 55 and older can
make an additional catch-up contribution of $5,500. The overall
annual limit for employee contributions plus employer-matching
contributions and profit sharing is $50,000.
For maximum impact, the campaign was timed to launch just as
talks over the fiscal cliff began to heat up and dominate news
coverage. The campaign will be continuing well into next year
because ASPPA also wants to influence the debate over the
potential course of broad tax reform efforts that many now
expect in the new Congress.
Over the last year leaders within the 401(k) service
industry and ASPPA began to put together the details of how a
campaign might work, taking cues from President Obamas
use of social networks in his reelection campaign.