Retirement policy proposals– whether from a state or the federal government – represent greatfodder for chats… and education. They offer the compellingnarrative of “pro and con” while also including important elementsthat help employees learn some of the fundamentals of retirement.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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We've all participated in those family dinners. You know theones I'm talking about. Everyone sits at the table. Animatedconversation abounds. There's loud laughter as each member quicklytries to offer the next enthusiastic word. It's a lively time. It'sa lovely time. It's a holiday time we all remember fondly.

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Now contrast that to stark scene from the movie Citizen Kanewhere Charles Foster Kane eats breakfast with his wife instone-cold silence. There's no engagement between the twocharacters. There's no passion between them. There's no longer asustainable investment in their relationship. As a result, there isnot future.

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It makes sense, then, that plan sponsors are very happy whenthey see their employees engaged in their 401(k) (see “3 Reasons 401k Plan Sponsors are Smiling,”FiduciaryNews.com, December 11, 2018). Employees who are talkingabout their retirement are paying attention to it. Plan sponsorsincreasingly recognize the need to encourage employees to talkabout their retirement and to keep them talking about it.

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Oddly, one of the side effects of the Great Fiduciary Debate hasbeen an invigorating discussion on retirement. It's easy tounderstand why. It was the DOL that vociferously promoted thefiduciary rule, and the DOL's jurisdiction is limited to retirementplans. Ergo, any mention of the fiduciary rule meant a mention ofretirement, saving for retirement, and, ultimately, investing forretirement.

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Another national policy topic that allows employees to facetheir own retirement is the continuing drama associated with SocialSecurity. Will it be there when they retire? Should it be there atall? What will replace it? For many, these kinds of questionsinspire people to take control of their own retirement. The bestway to do this is through a retirement plan.

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Meanwhile, we have a number of states also adding to theretirement dialog. Regardless of the merits (or dangers) ofstate-sponsored private retirement plans, it gets that table talkgoing. Retirement savers are wondering if this will help them, orif this will end up being another false promise like SocialSecurity.

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More likely, these plans face one of two end games. In one,since these plans are contribution plans, they'll succeed andreplace corporate plans because plan sponsors see them as a way outof fiduciary liability. Alternatively, it will quickly become clearthat, like the ill-fated myIRA, they don't provide the kind ofadded value that will justify their existence and they willdie.

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At the same time, the industry isn't sitting on its haunches.The rise of the robo-machines has found a home with millennials.The younger generation, raised on the ever-present hand-helddevice, find themselves quickly motivated by accessible content andinternet-based tools. It's too early to tell if these cloud-basedapplications will take on the gamification characteristics of otherforms of social media. But if it can keep the retirementconversation going, then that's a good sign.

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So, if plan sponsors want to elevate the odds of employeeengagement regarding retirement, there's a clear, low-cost, map toget there. Retirement policy proposals – whether from a state orthe federal government – represent great fodder for chats… andeducation. They offer the compelling narrative of “pro and con”while also including important elements that help employees learnsome of the fundamentals of retirement.

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Mix into this another form of debate: which free phone app isthe best. Now that will really start a conversation that engages.Just make sure there's no sharp utensils are the table when youstart it.

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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal FiduciaryNews.com and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christophercarosa/)and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ChrisCarosa).