Secretary Chao Stresses Retirement Savings Need at Summit

February 28, 2002 ( - Speaking today at the National Saver's Summit held in Washington, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao remarked that it is imperative for Americans to rethink their saving patterns in order to prepare for retirement.

“Americans have an instinct for saving,” Chao said.”What is different these days, I suggest, is not the American will, but the retirement landscape – a landscape that has been transformed during our lifetimes by what sometimes feels like an earthquake of change.

The summit is the second of three mandated by Congress in 1997 to develop policy and programs that encourage Americans to save for retirement. This year, the bi-annual event co-hosted by President Bush and the Congressional leadership has a central theme: “Saving for a Lifetime: Advancing Generational Prosperity.”

Expectancy Shift

In her address, Chao said that the shift in life expectancy is one of the primary reasons Americans need to save for retirement.

“For Americans born today, the average life expectancy is age 77 and rising,” she said. “That’s more than a decade longer than babies of their grandparents’ generation were expected to live.”

At the same time, Chao added that the addition of new investment vehicles such as mutual funds and 401(k) plans have improved the options the average American has at his disposal for retirement saving.

However, Chao said that a few challenges remain, such as teaching Americans the importance of retirement savings, making retirement education campaigns accessible to all generations and giving all Americans access to good advice. 

“The fact is, most people simply don’t have the time or inclination to become experts in managing financial portfolios, even their own,” Chao said. “They have jobs to do, children to take care of, and bills to pay. Especially in less certain economic times, people need help to chart their retirement strategies.”