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The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation by Arthur Levitt Jr., John C. Bogle

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Chapter 7

America’s Retirement System

Too Much Speculation, Too Little Investment

It is within our reach to move capitalism in a direction that is more wealth creating, more sustainable, less crisis-prone, and more legitimate than the “headwinds” capitalism we have today . . . to “pension fund capitalism.”. . . It requires the redesign of pension fund organizations so that they themselves become more effective and hence more productive stewards of the retirement savings of young workers and pensioners alike.

Keith Ambachtsheer

An Introductory Note

We don’t usually think of the retirement systems of our nation as, well, speculative. But, in fact, our defined benefit (DB) pension plans entail two distinct kinds of speculation. First, our pension managers are hardly free of the same counterproductive biases and emotions as their individual investor counterparts. Second, the defined benefit payments promised by pension plans to our retired citizens are, in effect, based on speculation as to whether today’s highly optimistic projected investment returns will actually be earned. If not, the providers of these plans will prove to have made too little investment, and corporations will face huge shortfalls in funding.

Corporate sponsors of private pensions would have to raise their annual contributions to fund the plans—no mean task for corporations now aggressively seeking to slash costs in order to increase the earnings they report to their shareholders. For our state and local governments—now ...

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