What's next for retirement savings?

With the stock market down so low, it seems to be a perfect time for liberals to push their ideas of government control of everything. Retirement funding is a perfect target. Doesn't it sound great to think that our government will take care of you until you die? After all, why make consumers responsible for taking care of themselves? That would cost them money! And they can't possibly be expected to save their own money!

Consumer are victims, after all, of something called corporate greed. Or so you would be led to believe. And the government must step in and save us! We won't talk about government greed, though. We're supposed to ignore the fact that our government forcibly takes away an ever-increasing amount of our money through personal incomes taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, corporate taxes (which ultimately are paid by consumers), and every "fee" that is really a tax in disguise.

Argentina recently took away private retirement accounts to pay government debts, promising to take care of citizens in their retirement years. But what about the citizens who didn't want to be under government control for the rest of their lives? Too bad for them.

In America, academics are saying that there was an "experiment" done with 401(k) accounts and it failed. Who judges whether it was even an experiment, or whether it failed? The government gave taxpayers an incentive to save for retirement (tax-free contributions to retirement accounts) and some consumers saved enough, while others didn't. That doesn't mean that 401(k) accounts themselves are a failure.

Does this purported "failure" mean that consumers can't possibly save enough money to care for themselves in retirement? Of course not. People choose how much to save and how much to spend. If they want more money for retirement, they should save more. Consumers make choices each day. Eat out or save? Buy a car or save? Smoke cigarettes or save? Buy a house or save? I'm confident that the majority of consumers could support themselves in retirement if they made better financial choices.

What we need is not more government control. We need more consumers to take more responsibility for themselves and the families they choose to create.

Americans must come to terms with the idea that they'll have to work longer than they have in the past. We are living longer than before, so we either need to save more or work longer, or both. What's really wrong with an older person working anyway? Of course there are certain jobs that wouldn't be ideal for this because of the level of physical labor required or other limiting factors. But there are plenty of jobs that can be done well by older workers, so why not?

The answer to the issue of retirement savings is not more government intervention in our lives. I'm not confident that Social Security as it looks today will really be viable by the time I retire. I'm planning accordingly. Doing away with 401(k) accounts in favor of even more government responsibility for taxpayers won't make me feel any better. Look at the financial mess our local and federal governments are in. Do we really want them taking on even more responsibility for us?

Here's a radical idea: How about if the government stops taxing consumers so much, allowing them to save more of their own money for retirement?

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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