Some of my conservative Facebook friends have a favorite posting, that goes something like this: What are the scariest words in the universe?
"We've come from the government, and we're here to help."
You too may be a little concerned - or perhaps relieved, depending on your own stance - to hear that the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now deciding whether or not it should begin to take a more active role in overseeing the country's retirement savings.
Bloomberg reports that the agency's director has stated, in somewhat vague terms, that the organization is in fact interested in beginning to ramp up its advocacy and oversight for the $19.4 trillion in DB and DC savings in the U.S.
If this sounds a little familiar - considering the fears that were raised in the last two months about the federal goverment suddenly re-discovering all of that deferred tax in 401(k) plans and eyeing it as a short-sighted fix to the fiscal cliff issue - you're not wrong at all.
(The CFPB, by the way, is the new organization launched after the Madoff scandal with some high-minded but admittedly vague directives.)
The Bloomberg profile, citing insiders with the agency, says that the Bureau believes it can play a more concise role than your other favorite federal retirement industry watchdogs - the SEC and the DOL - as well as superceding the awfully advisor- and generally industry-friendly help provided by FINRA (that's me being a little tongue-in-cheek, by the way).
Scared yet? Maybe you should be. The impetus, states CFPB chief Richard Cordray, is the perception that the existing organizations aren't actually focusing enough of their time and energy on the ever-expanding retirement field.
And that's perhaps a valid point, given that there's no real centralized government organization - or semi-govermental watchdog body - whose primary role is looking out for retirees, the soon-to-explode boomer generation or even us younger workers flailing around with the almost entirely self-directed world of 401(k)s.
Would yet another set of Fed eyes really serve to protect the interests of participants, or help to establish a more guaranteed nationwide retirement benefit system?
My suspicion is that you have a strong opinion on that issue. And some mixed feelings about just another organization looking over your shoulder. I'd love to hear what you have to say.