Set aside for a moment the fight in Washington, D.C., over stopgap spending legislation. In his budget blueprint for 2014, President Obama has proposed a number of tax and other reforms that would mean big changes in how retirement is financed.
What Congress does over the next couple of days could either avoid or trigger a government shutdown. Either way, at some point after the crisis is resolved, the House and Senate are likely take up the following proposals, all of which would have lasting effects on anyone saving for retirement.
Elimination of stretch IRA
The Obama budget would eliminate the stretch IRA that allows beneficiaries to stretch the proceeds from an inherited retirement account over their lifetime. Instead, non-spouse beneficiaries of retirement plans and IRAs would have to take full distribution of their inheritance within five years of the account holder’s death.
The only exceptions would be disabled or chronically ill individuals, someone who is not more than 10 years younger than the participant, or an IRA owner or a child who has not reached the age of majority. Those individuals would be allowed to take distributions from the deceased person’s retirement plans over the life or life expectancy of the beneficiary beginning in the year following the death of the participant.
A $3.4 million cap
The president’s proposed cap on retirement savings has garnered the most attention this year. The cap would raise about $9 billion for the federal government over the next 10 years by prohibiting taxpayers from taking advantage of the pre-tax deferral in their 401(k) or defined contribution pension plans after they cross a $3.4 million threshold.
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, only a small percentage of IRA and 401(k) investors would be affected by the cap. In 2011, only 0.06 percent of total IRA account holders had $3 million or more in their accounts, and only 0.0041 percent of 401(k) accounts had that much money in them at the end of 2012.
Social Security COLA
The president also proposed changing the way inflation is measured to shrink cost-of-living adjustments for retirees receiving Social Security benefits. The use of a chained consumer price index for Social Security and other programs, like Supplemental Security Income and veterans pensions, would reduce government deficits by $230 billion over 10 years. A chained CPI is a lower measure of inflation, which would reduce Social Security and other benefits by $130 billion.