Aspen’s IFS and the Global Market Institute at Goldman Sachs wrapped up their national roundtable tour in Charlotte, North Carolina with an insightful discussion about the role of financial institutions in encouraging savings in Charlotte and throughout America.
In a publicly televised event, panelists from around the Charlotte metropolitan area gathered to explore the underlying causes of the extremely low savings rates in America and to entertain possible solutions for the future. Participants came from various backgrounds, including leaders from the private banking community, the nonprofit sector, and local and national government. Attendees included U.S. Congressman Melvin Watt; Patrick McCrory, Mayor; H. Parks Helms, Chairman of the Mecklenburg Board of City Commissioners; Angeles Ortega-Moore, Executive Director of the Latin American Coalition; Bob Morgan, President of the Charlotte Chamber of Congress; Lynne Ford, Director of Sales and Distribution Strategy for Wachovia’s Retirement Investment Products Group; Gloria Pace King, President of United Way of Central Carolinas; and Jonathan Wilk, Savings and Investing Product Executive for Bank of America.
Panelists discussed a wide array of issues, including the important role of the employer in encouraging savings, especially with the recent decline in traditional pension plans that provided a relatively stable income in retirement. Ed Driggs, WTVI Board Chair, emphasized the “financial and moral responsibility of employers to look after their employees and take an interest in their long-term welfare.” Lynne Ford added that Wachovia has spent years educating plan sponsors about tactics to get their employees to save, such as opt-out strategies in 401(k) plans, which recently became law under the 2006 Pension Protection Act. “There are a lot of new things within 401(k)s that are making it easier for folks to invest,” Ford said.
Everyone agreed that an effort to fix the savings challenge in the United States will take the efforts of private, public and nonprofit sectors alike, be it through changing the tax structure, offering matching programs or loans to higher-risk clients, or revamping government incentives. As Anne Weiss of Charlotte Saves said, all three sectors must be “part of the solution, not part of the problem.”