Documentary prompts debate on how to spur savings

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SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Does a TV documentary that points to the failures of the U.S. retirement system work to shock nonsavers into action or does it freeze them in the headlights? That depends on whom you ask.
The Frontline show “Can You Afford to Retire,” which aired earlier this month on PBS stations, details the latest news on traditional pensions, including United Airlines’ termination of its plan. The show also shines a spotlight on how some workers fail miserably at saving with a 401(k) plan, interviewing some who found it necessary to return to work after retiring.
The segment ends with Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor from Notre Dame University sounding a call of alarm: “We’re shifting from lifetime pensions to lifetime work. It’s the end of retirement.”
The TV segment does talk to workers who succeeded with their 401(k), and it shows a company that’s doing everything it can to promote workers’ ability to succeed in a self-managed retirement plan. Still, the program’s dire outlook on the future of retirement spurred a debate between two nonprofit groups that work on retirement-planning issues.
The Frontline program “seriously distorted the value of employer-provided plans and could have a negative effect on an employee’s willingness to save for retirement,” said a press release posted by the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America, an association that represents companies offering profit-sharing and 401(k) plans.
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