Aspen Institute Publications
Aspen Institute publications are listed below. Many are available for purchase through Google Checkout, a secure system for handling credit card transaction online. For assistance with ordering publications, please contact our Publications office by email or by phone at (410) 820.5433. Please note: Orders are shipped two times a week from our warehouse in Queenstown, MD, on the Eastern Shore.
As the House Ways and Means Committe embarks on a comprehensive examination of the tax code, Aspen IFS puts forward that a tax reform moment offers the opportunity to enhance retirement security for all American households.
Lisa Mensah, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security (Aspen IFS), delivered a keynote address at the CFED Asset Learning Conference on September 19, 2012. Mensah's remarks addressed strengthening our country's financial security foundation and the importance of the assets field.
The 2012 Aspen Institute Financial Security Summit was an exclusive gathering of top business leaders, experts, advocates, and media. The Summit advanced the dialogue on the public and private solutions that build more savings and wealth in American households, strengthen middle-class opportunity, and improve the economic future of the country.
In an election year with a budgetary showdown looming, the Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security (Aspen IFS) chose it host its first Financial Security Summit in Aspen, Colorado to bring thoughtful leaders together to wrestle with the contours of a new strong and politically feasible financial security vision. With the American economy at a crossroads, Summit participants revealed compelling consensus around savings policies that have the power to enhance economic mobility and financial security while directing Americans away from a culture of unaffordable consumption.
From acclaimed civil rights leaders such as Andrew Young and activists such as Marc Morial to leading conservative scholars such as Douglas Holtz-Eakin and prominent independents such as David Walker, the headlines emerge: financial security is the key to America's promise to its middle class, and achieving a much greater measure of financial security is a goal that financial industry leaders and consumer advocates believe in and can advance.
Building Americans' household balance sheets should start with making savings and asset-building incentives more efficient and equitable. Although millions of working Americans currently receive little or no tax incentive to save, modest reforms to our tax code have the potential to dramatically improve their financial futures. The Aspen Institute on Financial Security (Aspen IFS) proposes the Freedom Savings Credit to create a more equitable and economically efficient savings system that will benefit millions of American households and the nation as a whole. The Freedom Savings Credit, deposited directly into qualified savings accounts, would provide each qualified saver with a $1 refundable tax credit for every $2 saved, giving a taxpayer the opportunity to receive up to $500 annually as a single filer or $1,000 as a married couple filing jointly. Enacting the Freedom Savings Credit would transform savings opportunities and outcomes for millions of Americans, helping to build household financial security and grow our nation's economy.
Critics of the Social Security program are fond of labeling the Social Security trust fund as a fiction, claiming that the program is bankrupt, or disparaging the program’s legal basis as ephemeral and subject to the whims of Congress. This brief sets the record straight on Social Security. This paper demonstrates that Social Security is not an income transfer program from the young to the old, the trust is a valid trust and the trust fund is invested as required by law, Social Security’s financial status is strong, and the program is not a major contributor to the long-term federal deficit. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt intentionally endowed the Social Security program with a strong legal and financial foundation to protect the “legal, moral, and political” integrity of Social Security, ensuring the program can continue to be the financial mainstay for Americans who are older, have disabilities, or are dependent children, as it has for generations.
As the world of defined contribution retirement savings has grown, and with the potential vast expansion of private retirement savings through automatic IRAs, the majority of savers now nearing retirement and in the generations to come will have nest eggs, which they will have primary responsibility for managing during retirement. Providing Americans the tools to manage the risk of outliving one's savings in retirement will be a major challenge of the 21st century. This white paper is is intended to describe how U.S. retirement policy arrived at this crossroad and to highlight some of the tensions and past choices that have brought the system to this turning point. The paper focuses on three areas of inquiry regarding the challenge of longevity at this point in time: employer plans, people and industry products. Understanding the journey the defined contribution plan system has made to this point in time is the first step toward charting its direction for the future.
As Americans live longer and increasingly rely on 401(k) plan savings as a prominent source of income in retirement, they will need to find ways to convert their savings into income that lasts a lifetime. Because the financial situations and goals of American savers are diverse, they will need a variety of products and services to secure their income. The Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security has developed “Security Plus Annuities,” a proposal that partners private industry with the Social Security Administration to offer low-cost, inflation-protected, “starter” life annuities. Security Plus Annuities would offer all Americans the ability to achieve greater financial security in retirement and would provide immediate assistance to two groups of Americans who have critical unmet needs for longevity-protected products: low- and moderate-income workers who frequently have not had access to a 401(k) plan at work, and near retirees whose work-based plans don’t currently offer lifetime income products.
Homeownership is a core American value. It epitomizes the American Dream and the opportunity to build better lives for our children. Home equity, as a financial asset, can be a springboard to the acquisition of other important assets like a college education, a small business, and a secure retirement. The Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security (Aspen IFS) proposes transforming U.S. housing policy through a dedicated down payment savings vehicle with government incentives available to low- and middle-income Americans. In its previous report, Savings for Life, Aspen IFS recommended Home Accounts as a way to prepare more Americans to become homeowners. This brief details how Home Accounts are a pragmatic vehicle to give low- and middle-income Americans a safer and more secure path to homeownership.
Many believe that the best way to improve 401(k) performance is to "fix the people," that is, to educate participants to make better investment decisions or, failing that, to offer them, at their own, substantial expense, personal advisors to assist them in making better decisions. Aspen IFS recognizes that there are behavioral challenges to turning people into savers and savers into investors. It believes, however, that the better, and cheaper, alternative to "fixing the people" is "fixing the product", that is, offering plan participants an investment option that mitigates the need for complex decision-making and professional advice yet is capable of delivering superior returns at a low cost.
The Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security’s new policy brief, "Your Nest Egg on Auto Pilot: The Advantages of RS+ over the R-Bond as Default Investment for the Automatic IRA," compares the two leading default investment options being considered for the Obama Administration’s proposed Automatic IRA. Using a Monte Carol model to simulate the performance of each investment option over a 40 year horizon, "Your Nest Egg on Auto Pilot" demonstrates the dramatic performance potential of Real Savings + (RS+). As the results show, the simple, low-cost structure of the RS+ offers savers significant upside potential, all the while protecting in full a saver’s contributions from the three most likely risks to retirement savings – inflation, default by the bond issuer, and falling stock prices.