How They’ll Grab Your 401k

The government could never get their hands on my 401K, you say?

Like they couldn’t tell you what kind of light bulb you can use in your house? Like the middle class would never have to pay much in taxes? Like they won’t monitor your mileage with a black box in your car? Or use your tax money for abortions? Or pass a health care law that will make costs skyrocket while service declines? Like there aren’t any death panels?

Fine, Goldilocks, but don’t be surprised when the wolf ends up eating you.

Here’s how it will be marketed. The government, which only has your best interest at heart, recognizes that you Baby Boomers are likely to fall for scams. They will volunteer – in your best interest – to manage your money for you. It has been bandied about that they might offer you a certain amount for your 401K. If you don’t take it, that money will be tied up or subject to horrendous fees.

Here’s what Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog writes:

“We have discussed this threat over the past several years. The obvious concept is that when the government runs out of money, or they face a drying up in interest for its debt, they will come for the $19.4 trillion in American’s retirement accounts. It seems that day may be finally drawing near.

I stopped contributing to my 401k back when I worked at Bernstein, and I will probably now have to give more serious consideration whether I want to take the penalty and move the funds out of my retirement account entirely. I haven’t made any decisions, but will be watching closely.

I’m sure the government is just trying to protect your retirement account from terrorists.

From Bloomberg:

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is weighing whether it should take on a role in helping Americans manage the $19.4 trillion they have put into retirement savings, a move that would be the agency’s first foray into consumer investments.

That’s one of the things we’ve been exploring and are interested in in terms of whether and what authority we have,” bureau director Richard Cordray said in an interview. He didn’t provide additional details.

The bureau’s core concern is that many Americans, notably those from the retiring Baby Boom generation, may fall prey to financial scams, according to three people briefed on the CFPB’s deliberations who asked not to be named because the matter is still under discussion.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Labor are the main regulators of U.S. retirement savings vehicles and funds. However, the consumer bureau — established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act — sees itself as a potential catalyst for promoting a coherent policy across the government, the people said.

The bureau’s core concern is that many Americans, notably those from the retiring Baby Boom generation, may fall prey to financial scams, according to three people briefed on the CFPB’s deliberations who asked not to be named because the matter is still under discussion.

The retirement savings business in the U.S. is dominated by a group of companies that handle record-keeping and management of investments in tax-advantaged vehicles like 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts. The group includes Fidelity Investments, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW) and T. Rowe Price Group Inc. (TROW) Americans held $19.4 trillion in retirement assets as of Sept. 30, 2012, according to the Investment Company Institute, an industry association; about $3.5 trillion of that was in 401(k) plans.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Labor are the main regulators of U.S. retirement savings vehicles and funds. However, the consumer bureau — established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act — sees itself as a potential catalyst for promoting a coherent policy across the government, the people said.

With large numbers of Americans heading toward retirement in the coming decade, the CFPB has referred internally to this concept as “the rollover moment,” the people said.

Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, a research group that promotes free markets, said that while Dodd-Frank didn’t specifically give the consumer bureau jurisdiction over investments, it could step in if the other agencies don’t.

“I could imagine the CFPB growing into a role on investment savings if it seems like the SEC is asleep at the wheel,” Calabria said in an interview.

The bureau could claim jurisdiction through its Office for Older Americans, which was established by Dodd-Frank with a mandate to improve financial literacy. It is run by Hubert H. Humphrey III, the former attorney general of Minnesota.

The retirement savings industry generally has little to do with the CFPB because the SEC is the main investment regulator, said Ianthe Zabel, an ICI spokeswoman. She declined further comment on the CFPB plans.”

Many have pointed out that the high Dow Jones number now argues against this, but does it really set the stage for a dramatic fall in which stock holders will be scared and more willing to accept a Fed buyout? Sounds entirely plausible.

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