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Reflecting on 2011 and ahead to 2012: Anna Rappaport

What would you say were the biggest news events in your area of expertise?
In the retirement sphere, there are a few areas that are highly important to me.  They include the growing focus on the need for retirement income and the consequences of the decline in defined-benefit plans.

Were there any trends that came as a surprise to those following the industry?
My biggest surprises include my work on ERISA’s Advisory Council because I had not yet considered the interaction of privacy and security issues with benefit plan issues.  This really reminded me that there is still a lot I do not know.

The second surprise I experienced this year is that many people are realizing the importance of working longer, but few people are doing much to make this more possible.

What lessons learned came out of the year for this area?
Folks cannot assume that recent advances will not backslide again.  Also, individuals need to plan accordingly for retirement and not count too much on utilizing the value of their home during retirement.

Looking to 2012…

What will be the top three to four trends in your area of expertise in 2012?
I anticipate that next year there will be a greater focus on the need for retirement income.

Are there any milestone events or releases of data that everyone should be paying attention to?
Folks should keep an eye on what the Department of Labor does about fiduciary issues and income illustrations.

If health reform moves ahead, pension benefits may become a much more important part of the competitive labor package.

What advice do you have for those responsible for developing and managing retirement plans?
Do what you can to educate folks so they are able to do more for themselves.  Establishing good defaults are key, especially defaults for the post-retirement period.  Businesses and employers should assist more mature workers with new job options(part-time work, phased retirement, etc.).

Pay attention to the impact of disability in a defined contribution world, and enable new solutions.

Would you define risk management differently going into 2012 than you would have a year or two ago?
Critical elements of risk management include remembering operational risks and the downside risk in target-date plans.

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