Some members of Congress want to discourage workers from using 401(k) plan hardship withdrawals to pay everyday pre-retirement expenses.
Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wis., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., are introducing a bill that would ban 401(k) plan debit card programs and limit the number of hardship withdrawals that plan participants can take.
Plan sponsors that adopt debit card programs can let workers pay for small purchases by borrowing small amounts from 401(k) plan accounts.
At press time, the number of the bill was not yet available.
Kohl is chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
The committee today held a hearing to focus attention on regulators’ concerns about 401(k) debit card programs and other forces that might reduce American’s retirement savings.
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., the highest ranking Republican on the committee, argued that those forces are a threat partly because many American workers save far too little.
“The median 401(k) account balance in 2006 was about $60,000,” Gordon said at the hearing, according to a written version of his opening statement. “For most of us, our 401(k) will be our primary source of retirement savings – and $66,000 is certainly not enough money to retire on.”
Smith cited statistics from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, Los Angeles, a unit of AEGON N.V., The Hague, Netherlands, indicating that the percentage of 401(k) plan participants with plan loans outstanding increased to 18% in 2007, from 11% in 2006.