If the retirement plan industry ever decided to
produce "Mythbusters," its host surely would
have to be Dallas Salisbury.
Photo by Cameron Davidson
is, in many respects, a man of contradictions. Deeply
passionate about the issue of retirement savings and
security, he is also extraordinarily dispassionate in his
ability to call to the fore data that frequently belie the
accepted "common wisdom" of the way things
He'll point out, for instance, that defined
benefit plans were never as pervasive, nor did they
provide as much benefit, as is generally assumed: a
result that, Salisbury will point out, is in no small
part because, certainly in the private sector and going
back as far as World War II, Americans have not tended to
stay with a single employer long enough to accumulate the
requisite service credits.
The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)
data—and it has access to data from more than 35,000
plans—also suggest that, while automatic plan features
serve to increase and enhance the retirement savings
patterns for younger and lower-income workers, those same
structures can ill-serve higher-income savers, who allow
the system to do less for them than they might be inclined
to do on their own.
has a journalist's gift for putting a face on cold hard
facts and frequently references the circumstances of
regular folks, including his own parents ("Pop," as
Salisbury refers to his father, passed away last year at
the age of 94).
Salisbury has led EBRI since its founding in 1978,
an organization whose mission is—and has always been—"to
contribute to, to encourage, and to enhance the
development of sound employee benefit programs and sound
public policy through objective research and
It is a statement of purpose that seems equally
applicable to Salisbury, whose aura of profound
reasonableness and singular command of the facts and
figures of his trade have made him such an extraordinary
advocate for financial security planning and programs,
both within the workplace and beyond.
It is an influence that doubtless will affect how
many of us spend our retirements.