Thankful For So Much

Nov 16, 2023

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and I have so many things to be thankful for: My family. My friends. And don’t forget superstar Caitlin Clark and the No. 2-ranked Iowa women’s basketball team!

As a proud University of Iowa alum, I know I’m not alone in my admiration for Clark and the Hawkeyes. Last month, more than 55,000 people attended their exhibition game in Iowa City against DePaul, setting an all-time women’s college basketball record.

It’s always great to see records set in my home state. Of course, the state of Iowa is not only a record-setter, but a trendsetter.

In 2020, Iowa became the first state to adopt the Best Interest enhancements to the NAIC Suitability in Annuity Transactions Model Regulation. Since then, 39 additional states with bipartisan support from state legislatures, governors and commissioners have implemented similar enhancements. More states are expected to do the same next year.

The actions in the states closely align with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Regulation Best Interest. Importantly, these harmonized consumer protections safeguard consumers against conflicts of interest while also protecting consumer access to retirement security options like annuities.

Annuities empower people to create their own steady stream of guaranteed lifetime income like a traditional pension. With fewer and fewer employers offering traditional pensions to employees, it’s no surprise that people are buying record numbers of annuities.

The largest number of Americans in history will turn age 65 next year and, for the first time, the majority of Americans turning 65 do not have pensions and are self-funding through 401(k)s, other employer plans and IRAs. Many without protected lifetime income stand the chance of running out of money in retirement.

Public policy should make it easier for Americans to secure their financial future. The states and the SEC get it. So does Congress, which passed the bipartisan SECURE and SECURE 2.0 bills in 2019 and 2022 that contained key provisions to help ease access to annuities.

But the Department of Labor is moving in the opposite direction. It is plowing ahead to mandate a strict fiduciary-only regulation. This misguided scheme will cut off retirement options for middle-income Americans and build a barrier to financial inclusion.

Thankfully, we live in a nation that has checks and balances against harmful government initiatives. The last time the DOL proposed a fiduciary-only regulation, it was struck down by a federal court.

The latest DOL proposal is even more harmful for savers. I am so thankful to work for the life insurance industry, which is pushing back hard. We are committed to ensuring that all Americans of any race, gender or income level have the opportunity to achieve financial certainty throughout retirement.

Susan K. Neely

Susan K. Neely is the President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), the nation’s leading trade association determined to help families live better lives by achieving financial security and certainty. As president and CEO, Neely drives public policy and advocacy on behalf of ACLI’s member companies that represent 93 percent of industry assets and serve 90 million families.