The Happy Ending? Congress May Be Getting Ready to Pass Secure 2.0

The Happy Ending? Congress May Be Getting Ready to Pass Secure 2.0

Did you ever get the feeling you’d said everything there was to say?

Like you’ve seen it all and heard it twice over, shown people your slide show of beautiful vistas one time too many?

I get that feeling a lot, having led a long life. Switch on YouTube, I see the same dreary things. My mother and her sister, Aunt Bert, adored the TV show ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’. They were always yakking about it, whenever I called – ‘just so funny’. Sometimes, to stay in the loop, show some respect for a change, I’d watch it a bit. I still glance at clips today, for old time’s sake.

Raymond, I do not love thee. The actors seem to have been cast solely for their resemblance to things that stick to one’s shoe. They played on a set, all earth tones and clutter, designed to drag us all down, down, down. I’m an un-cheery spirit, a dour New Englander by DNA, so I can hardly stand it – though I can, just occasionally, because the show’s funny.

In small doses. Yet watch two or three clips and YouTube thinks you’re head over heels with Raymond. Down rushes the video deluge: interviews with the creepy cast. Outtakes and bloopers. Twenty-fifth anniversary round tables. My sentence for the crime of an ill-considered ‘click’.

I’ve seen enough. Heard it all. Due to my age, their algorithm is certain: I am a Pink Floyd fan, wear a David Gilmore t-shirt to bed, weep hot tears at ‘Wish You Were Here’, dream of halcyon days in high school, hot nights with Claudia and Christine, Floyd on the glowing radio console…

Get real. I listen to Erik Satie, drink Campari and soda, and I’m trying to cut down on Egyptian tobacco. Why would a sharp sophisticate like me want to see that mawkish dreck? Yet this is hardly the worst, and dear readers, to whom I’d complain if any would listen, I’m bored with it all. No, I say to endlessly recommended clips from the flick ‘Gladiator’ – I am not entertained.

(Mind you, there’s a Joy Division shirt in my closet, which I had signed by bassist Peter Hook, and because laundering would ruin it, it cannot be worn. This is a different matter entirely.)

I’m feeling all wound up and cranky today, because my editor, dear tendentious Rebecca, has asked me to write about Secure Act 2.0 again.

It likely isn’t her fault, bless her hectoring soul: she has demanding taskmasters, too. And yet I concede the point, because the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2021 is vitally important for our country’s citizens. Passed by the House Ways and Means Committee in May 2021, all parties involved and spectators, too, thought it would pass rapidly into law.

Blocked by contentious events and slovenly incompetence at all levels of government, the bill was deflected, did not reach a vote. This year, definitely, say Congressional observers.

I sure hope so, because Secure 2.0 makes good solid sense. Let’s run down its features, just one last time, then I can down tools and relax.

The automatic enrollment of employees in company-sponsored retirement savings plans would become standard. This would involve common plans like the venerable 401(k). New workers will be signed up when they onboard. The minimum automatic contribution would typically be 3% of pretax income, rising in annual 1% increments to 10%. New workers could choose to opt out, but experience suggests few will do so – saving for the future is intoxicating.

Today, senior citizens must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their retirement savings accounts at age 72. Secure 2.0 would raise the RMD-tripping age to 73, allowing more time for hopefully maxed-out accounts to grow manfully. The RMD-enforced age would rise to 74 in 2029 and 75 in 2032. Live long and prosper, as somebody said.

In tandem, the penalty for failing to take an RMD would be cut to 25%, down from today’s draconian 50%. If a retiree can prove they missed the RMD by accident, the fee would be cut another 10%. I still see this rule as a stinker, but if Congress wants you to spend money and enjoy life, that’s what you should do.

Catch-up contributions for laggardly savers are today allowed until age 62; Secure 2.0 would extend the boundary to 64. The annual catch-up tossed on top of the regular contribution limits would be raised from last year’s $6,500 to $10,000. This latter amount would be indexed to inflation, and we all know how vital that is, given the lesson we’re learning today, still being taught with such vigor.

The issue of forgiving student loan debt is socially contentious and emotionally demanding for the parties directly involved. That’s why I like any steps that would ameliorate the pain of student loan holders, while avoiding a political fireball. Under Secure 2.0, employers could choose to match an employee’s regular student loan payment with an equivalent contribution to their retirement savings account.

We’ve been worried over here at Cavalier about what might happen to well-educated young citizens, too bowed down by student loan debt to prepare for retirement. I classify the relevant provision in 2.0 as a step in the right direction, and look forward to further hopeful initiatives. Call me a dreamer, but here we have one, in near-solid form. All Congress need do now is pass the bill.

There, so I’m done. Running over the same old ground, what have we found? Something to give us cheer. And so, I’ll leave you with that, loyal readers, and try your patience no further.

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