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Washington's Big New Retirement Proposal

No, it's not the myRA.

John Rekenthaler, 02/03/2014

Trivial Pursuit
It is Sunday morning. The top five headlines in the Money section of CNN's website read:

"Super Bowl ticket prices heat up"
"Big game means traffic jam--for private jets"
"GoldieBlox makes Super Bowl history"
"Can stocks shake off January jitters?"
"How to lower your tax bill"

I scan the next 20 headlines, seeking something--anything --about Sen. Tom Harkin's proposal, released three days before, to revamp the heart of the nation's retirement-savings system, the 401(k) plan. Nothing.

On to the Retirement subsection. Its text:

"What is a 'myRA retirement account'?"
"Americans on Obama's myRA plan"
"Take retirement for a test drive"

I open Yahoo's Finance page. Then AOL's Finance page. No and no.

Strange. When PBS attacked 401(k)s last spring in its "Frontline" documentary, "The Retirement Gamble," all three websites brandished that story on their home pages. Now, when the chair of the Senate Pensions Committee puts together a proposal that addresses many, if not all, of the criticisms made in that "Frontline special," his announcement is met by ... silence.

The USA Retirement Funds Act
Make no mistake about it: Harkin's proposal, entitled the Universal, Secure, and Adaptable (USA) Retirement Funds Act of 2014, is a big idea. President Obama's myRA plan is a modest item that can be passed by executive fiat. The USA Retirement Funds Act, in contrast, is a large, ambitious bill that must be passed via the normal legislative process.

is vice president of research for Morningstar.

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