With President-elect Donald Trump leading GOP control of Congress — and possibly the Supreme Court — what does this mean for your retirement?
Well, it’s unlikely there will be any draconian changes to retirement savings vehicles, but watch out for other potential game-changers. Some of them may hurt your ability to save and achieve financial security in your golden years.
There are some glaring conflicts between what Trump has said in the campaign and retirement policy going forward. Trump, for example, has said he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare, although Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has long pushed for privatizing both programs. That may ultimately cut benefits.
“We’re not going to hurt the people who have been paying into Social Security their whole life,” Trump declared, calling the payment of promised benefits “honoring a deal.”
But the man heading the Trump transition team’s Social Security effort? Michael Korbey, a former lobbyist who has spent much of his career advocating for cutting and privatizing the program, according to Yahoo News.
“It’s a failed system, broken and bankrupt,” Korbey said as a lobbyist in the mid 1990s. Korbey acknowledged that some of the reforms his group backed would hurt retirees, but “our constituents aren’t just senior citizens,” he told a newspaper in 1996. A decade later, as a senior adviser to the Social Security Administration, Korbey was a public advocate for the George W. Bush administration’s failed attempt to privatize Social Security.
Paul Ryan, who represents mainstream Republicans, has long advocated privatizing Medicare. That means dissolving the federally guaranteed fee-for-service program and handing fixed subsidies for retirees to buy private insurance? Would these private plans be affordable? It’s not known, since Ryan has never released specific details.
In addition to handing over Medicare to the private insurance industry, Ryan would raise the qualifying age for Medicare to 67 (from 65 at present) in three years and require that higher-income Americans pay more for insurance.
Another potential loss for retirees would be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act by Trump and GOP Congressional members. At present, the ACA guarantees acceptance for anyone not qualifying for Medicare, so early retirees would be hurt by the loss of the consumer protections, if that part of the law is repealed.
Another retiree protection on the chopping block in the Trump Administration is the Department of Labor’s “fiduciary rule.” Scheduled to go into effect next April, the rule mandated that financial advisers offering retirement advice and products act in the best interest of investors.
Backed by the powerful business lobbies The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the securities and insurance industries, the anti-DOL forces have been suing to scrap the pro-investor rule. Trump and other Republicans had said they want to get rid of the DOL’s signature firewall for retirees.
What will happen if there’s an attack on the DOL rule and other retirement programs? The most immediate impact is that Wall Street and the insurance industry will be selling more overpriced, commission-only products. That will make it harder to save for retirement.
It will also be likely that you’ll be digging into your pocket for health care and retirement income when you can least afford to do so. Nothing, of course, is written in stone in the new Washington. You can always fight back.