Harkin, D-Iowa, delivered that message today here at a conference organized by the National Institute on Retirement Security, Washington.
The list of speakers also included Dirk Kempthorne, the new president of the American Council of Life Insurance (ACLI), Washington.
Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, attracted insurance industry attention a year ago by helping sellers of indexed annuities keep the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from classifying the products as securities.
Today, Harkin said that Social Security must continue to be part of the retirement mix and told attendees that he is making retirement security a priority.
Core principles for improving the system include a need for shared responsibility and a need for retirement assets to be professionally managed, Harkin said.
“There’s a lot to be done, but retirement security is something I’m willing to fight for,” Harkin said. “I really do think we’re at a crossroads here. There are two paths in front of us: We can keep going like we have for years – making it harder and harder for families to get by – or we can stand up and say it’s time for a change, it’s time to fix what’s broken. I’m confident that we will make the right choice.”
Harkin called for scrapping the current emphasis on do-it-yourself asset management.
“Forcing people to manage their own retirement funds isn’t working,” Harkin said.
Few workers have the background needed, the interest or the time, he added.
“Instead, retirement dollars need to be pooled to take advantage of economies of scale and managed by professionals who carefully select and monitor every investment in a diversified portfolio,” Harkin said. “That would make it easier for workers, and it’s better for the economy as a whole.”
Harkin criticized efforts to attack Social Security.