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EBSA Schedules Lifetime Income Hearing

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The long-term viability of lifetime income guarantees may be on the agenda at an upcoming Employee Benefits Security Administration hearing on retirement plan income options.

EBSA says it and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will hold the lifetime income hearing Sept. 14 in Washington.

EBSA, an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, and the IRS, an arm of the U.S. Treasury Department, drew about 780 comments earlier this year with a request for information about lifetime income options.

When the agencies published the request in February, life insurers and annuity marketers welcomed the agencies’ interest in helping workers make savings last throughout retirement.

Social Security benefits and traditional defined benefit pension income benefits typically last until retirees die.

Today, the only way workers can use personal savings and assets in employer-sponsored defined contribution retirement plans to create guaranteed lifetime income streams is to buy annuities or other products sold by life insurers.

Some consumers reacted to the request for information by suggesting that it was part of a government plot to replace workers’ 401(k) assets with worthless government IOUs.

EBSA and the IRS have not included that topic on the list of issues they hope to explore at the hearing in September.

Officials say they will limit the scope of the hearing to testimony and questions relating to the following issues:

1. Participant concerns affecting the choice of lifetime income relative to other options.

2. Information to help participants make choices regarding management and spend down of retirement benefits.

3. Disclosure of account balances as monthly income streams.

4. Fiduciary safe harbor for selection of lifetime income issuer or product.

5. Alternative designs of in-plan and distribution lifetime income options.

Participants’ concerns include the fees and complexity associated with some lifetime income products, limits on death benefits and withdrawal options, and “the long-term viability of the institution issuing the lifetime income product,” officials say.

EBSA and the IRS “are interested in hearing testimony on these considerations and concerns, how they are or can be addressed in the market or via plan design, and recommendations concerning steps policymakers and regulators might take to address them,” officials say.


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