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Retirement Gap: Time for Congress to Step Up

Bob Reynolds says the right public policy can fix the retirement gap.

Bob Reynolds is a man on the go. In the 1980s, he took over Fidelity's modest 401(k) business and built it into an industry heavyweight. By the turn of this century, he had ascended to chief operating officer at Fidelity. In 2006, while still at Fidelity, Reynolds reportedly finished second in the contest to become the next commissioner of the National Football League. When it became clear that the Fidelity CEO job would stay in the family--founder Ned Johnson's daughter, Abigail, later took the company's top role-- Reynolds looked for a new challenge and took on the responsibility in 2008 of turning around Putnam Investments, which had fallen on hard times in the early 2000s. In 2014, Reynolds also became CEO of Great-West Financial, which shares a common owner with Putnam. Great-West Financial owns a substantial insurance business and operates one of the nation's largest recordkeeping operations, Empower Retirement.

Reynolds has long campaigned to remake the nation's retirement system. It is no secret that Americans have inadequate retirement savings--the Employee Benefit Research Institute, or EBRI, puts the "retirement gap" at $4 trillion--but Reynolds is optimistic that, with the right public policy framework, that gap will shrink. Reynolds has proposed a number of policy changes that would help people save more--and that would make workplace retirement plans available to the 50% of private-sector employees who currently lack them. I recently talked with Reynolds about his ideas to reshape the U.S. retirement system. What follows is an edited transcript of our Q&A.