The Wall Street Journal unveiled the existence of a new investment plan that was created without Congressional approval. To be fair, we first heard about it during last years State of the Union address in January, 2014; Obama announced that he would instruct the Treasury to craft a new retirement plan, which the WSJ noted “was puzzling because such plans are normally created by law, not Presidential order”
Sure enough, Obama kept his word. It’s called “myRA”, and it is a retirement plan that invests solely in government debt. Here’s more:
“A form of Roth Individual Retirement Account that allows people to save after-tax dollars and watch them grow tax-free until retirement, the new myRA offers a single investment option. It’s a private version of the G Fund that is available to federal workers and has lately been delivering annual returns of about 2% on its portfolio of Treasury securities.
Intended for those who haven’t started saving for retirement, don’t have a retirement plan at work, and make less than $129,000 per year ($191,000 for married couples filing jointly), the myRA requires no minimum investment to open an account and promises no fees for investors.”
There are no other investments except in Treasury bonds. No stocks, no corporate bonds. Just Treasury bonds. And the Treasury department is funding the program.
The WSJ confirmed that the Treasury Department didn’t actually receive any authority to start his program. Instead, it is using the budget from the “Bureau of the Fiscal Service” to do so. “The assertion here is that existing law allows this part of the Treasury to hire financial agents as part of its mission to efficiently finance the federal government.” In order to manage the new program, the Treasury hired a group called Comerica and its partner, “Fidelity National Information Services”.
The WSJ raises some good questions pertaining to the existence of the program, its purpose, and its funding:
“[F]ar from delivering efficiencies for the taxpayer, this program is designed to subsidize the investors. Not that a low-yielding Treasury securities fund is the right move for these first-time investors. But this is a deal they cannot find in the marketplace because it would be unprofitable for any company to offer it, given that the investor pays no fees and can contribute as little as he wishes in regular payroll deductions. Taxpayers are covering the costs, though their elected representatives in Congress never voted to create the program. So far Treasury also hasn’t told us the fees it is paying Comerica.
The subsidies in myRAs are likely to be small at first, but the history of government programs is that they expand over time. And if such a subsidy scheme can be enacted administratively, does anyone think this will be the last time such power is exercised?
New investors should be encouraged to consider ways to build wealth beyond simply lending money to the feds. And if politicians want taxpayers to support another retirement program, they should do so through law, not White House whim.”
You can read more about myRA by going to the Treasury page. myRA is touted as “a simple, safe and affordable retirement account created by the United States Department of the Treasury for the millions of Americans who face barriers to saving for retirement.”
All this program seems to do is create another fund that is guaranteed by taxpayers, whose accounts invest in a government program — the Treasury Bond — essentially acting like a prop. How much it will cost the taxpayers remains to be seen.