US Lawmakers Introduce Bill Allowing Crypto Investments in 401(k) Retirement Plans01.10.2022
Several U.S. lawmakers have introduced the Retirement Savings Modernization Act to provide 401(k) retirement savers access to a wide range of investments, including crypto assets. “With inflation at record highs, a stock market downturn, and a potential recession on the horizon, many Americans are rightfully concerned about their financial future,” said U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.
Retirement Savings Modernization Act Introduced
The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs announced Thursday that Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) and Representative Peter Meijer (R-MI) have introduced a bill called the Retirement Savings Modernization Act.
The bill aims “to bolster Americans’ retirement savings by allowing workers to diversify assets included in defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans,” the announcement details. “This legislation will amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to clarify that private sector retirement plan sponsors may offer plans, including both pensions and 401(k)s, that are prudently diversified across the full range of asset classes.”
Senator Toomey opined, “With inflation at record highs, a stock market downturn, and a potential recession on the horizon, many Americans are rightfully concerned about their financial future,” elaborating:
By providing 401(k) savers with access to the same asset classes as pension plans, my legislation will open the door to a more secure retirement for millions of Americans.
While pension plans and 401(k) plans are covered by the same law, the former have incorporated asset classes outside of the public markets since 1982. Meanwhile, the latter “almost never incorporate exposure to alternative assets due to fiduciaries’ anticipated litigation risk,” the announcement explains. The bill lists “digital assets” as a “covered investment.”
Senator Scott described: “Inflation has eroded and devalued the savings many Americans spent their lives accumulating. This bill would modernize retirement plans to ensure they can provide diverse investments with higher returns. American workers and their families deserve to go about their lives with peace of mind, knowing their hard-earned money will be secure when they choose to retire.”
Until the 1970s, most Americans working in the private sector relied on pension plans for retirement. Today, the vast majority of private sector workers rely on 401(k) plans. “However, pension plans have consistently outperformed 401(k) plans because they diversify across the full range of asset classes, putting one of every five dollars in alternative asset classes like private equity,” the lawmakers noted.
Representative Meijer stressed:
Americans deserve flexibility with their retirement options, especially in times of fiscal uncertainty.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a notice in March warning about crypto investments in 401(k) plans. “The department has serious concerns about the prudence of a fiduciary’s decision to expose a 401(k) plan’s participants to direct investments in cryptocurrencies, or other products whose value is tied to cryptocurrencies,” the DOL wrote. “These investments present significant risks and challenges to participants’ retirement accounts, including significant risks of fraud, theft, and loss.”
Despite the warning by the Labor Department, Fidelity, a major 401(k) plan administrator, announced in April that it will allow bitcoin as an investment option in its new 401(k) products. The financial giant’s decision caused concerns for the Labor Department. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is also worried, demanding answers from Fidelity regarding its decision to allow bitcoin in 401(k) plans.
In May, a U.S. senator introduced a bill prohibiting the Labor Department from interfering with investments in retirement accounts. In June, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that crypto is “very risky,” emphasizing that it is unsuitable for most retirement savers.
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