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Obamacare, Step Aside; Blogosphere Squares Off on Obamaretire

Travelers Today       By    Ken Stone

Updated: Jan 31, 2014 07:57 AM EST

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Obamaretire, Obamacare, President Obama, MyRA, pensions, savings accounts, retirement plan
Obama and Boehner before State of the Union
House Speaker John Boehner greets President Barack Obama before Tuesday night's State of the Union.(Photo : Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Before the president's State of the Union talk, Myra was an ancient Greek town in Turkey. But now MyRA -- a savings plan unveiled by Barack Obama -- is sparking a Greek chorus of naysayers amid a few thumbs up.

My Retirement Account, a takeoff on Individual Retirement Account, "guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in," Obama said Tuesday night.

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Before you could say HealthCare.gov, bloggers began the analysis -- with one blasting the plan as "Obamaretire."

Some early reviews:

Business Week said: "A path to riches it's not. If it had existed in 2012 it would have produced a return of 1.47 percent, going by what the Thrift Savings Plan earned that year."

Investopedia's Robert England quoted Dallas retirement consultant Alan Glickstein as saying: "It may get some people over the hump who are not currently saving into a world where they are starting to save."

AARP found a fan in Tim Steffen, director of financial planning for Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee.

 "Anytime you can make it easy for employees to contribute to a savings plan, that's got to be positive," Steffen said. "And payroll deduction is a great way to do it."

But later he said: "This is just added complexity to the retirement savings system. Do we really need yet another form of retirement savings account?"

And Karen Friedman of the Pension Rights Center, an advocate for employees and retirees, called myRA "an important first step in offering an easy, secure place where lower-income people who are not covered by an employer retirement plan can begin to save for retirement."

In the same post, Ed Ferrigno of the Plan Sponsor Council of America called myRA "a pretty good idea. ... This is a positive, working on the assumption there's no mandate."

But speaking of mandates, a Tea Party blog headlined its story 'Obamaretire' -- Government Takeover of Retirement Accounts.

The Obama plan is a "forced government retirement plan," says the blogger known as Sherrie  Questioning All.  She spoke to Jim Willie, a marketing researcher and retail forecaster. 

"He said the bonds won't just include U.S. government debt bonds, but they will also have the toxic Fannie Mae bonds which is still loaded with FRAUD!" 

Less shrill was Nancy Anderson at Forbes.com, who spoke of another mandate:

MyRA needs to be coupled with mandatory financial education around what workers need to know to invest for retirement. This could include how to run retirement calculations, investment education and showing the value of increasing contributions over time.  Then employees would have the tools to use MyRA account as a true starting point to retirement security.  Access to a retirement account through payroll deduction is helpful. Couple it with financial education and it could be powerful.

"Upon hearing about MyRA, many pundits laughed about the program's name," said John Kuo of nerdwallet.com, who posted a tweet by Charles Passy of the Dow Jones subsidiary MarketWatch: "What do a British pianist, a Gore Vidal novel and an Obama retirement plan have in common? They're all Myras."

But remember that other clunky handle?

Apple's iPads seem to be doing OK.

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