Former senator: 401(k) plans were 'never designed to be the retirement plan for America'

A former senator and expert on retirement security noted that "we've sort of fallen into" a retirement system built around 401(k) plans but you would "run into tremendous resistance politically" if you tried to change it.

Kent Conrad represented North Dakota and is now a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. He advocates working within the system that he acknowledges was "never designed to be the retirement plan for America."

Conrad joined "On the Move" with Adam Shapiro and Julie Hyman Wednesday to discuss retirement as part of a new partnership between Yahoo Finance and the Funding our Future campaign, an arm of the Bipartisan Policy Center that advocates for a secure retirement for all Americans.

The senator advocates a series of measures, from improving access to retirement plans at work to modernizing Social Security that he says "would dramatically increase retirement income." Conrad added "the estimates are it would increase the retirement income in this country over the next 40 years by 50%."

Conrad supports the ongoing efforts on Capitol Hill to reform the private retirement system, especially measures to make it easier for small businesses to offer plans. But he added that “the elephant in the room is Social Security” which could be depleted in 16 years, according to a recent report by the program’s trustees. “I would say the number one challenge is securing Social Security,” he said.

In the months ahead, a number of partners of the Funding our Future campaign from across the political and business communities will appear on Yahoo Finance to discuss some of the challenges facing the U.S. retirement system.

Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, D.C.

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