The investor class

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on March 28, 2008

One of the most prominent cultural shifts that has occurred in the past 50 years has been the increase in job mobility and the decrease in company-sponsored retirement programs. More people today move from job to job every few years. The era of getting a manufacturing job straight out of high school, working at it for 50 years and then retiring have come and gone.

So it makes sense, with this fluid workforce, that a shift would occur in how most people plan for retirement. That shift has been the creation of the investor class. Instead of pension programs, companies sponsor 401(k) plans and IRAs, often matching some percentage of what the employee contributes. This money is typical invested in stocks and bonds and the result is that a large portion of the American population has a vested interest in American economic growth.

Earlier this week, the Obamas released their tax returns for the past six years. While the early reports focused on their somewhat stingy record of charitable contributions, John Fund of The Wall Street Journal notes that the Obamas apparently haven't been putting much away for their retirement.

Ryan Ellis of the American Shareholders Association has examined the Obama returns for calendar years 2001 to 2006 and found that, in all of those years, the couple reported a mere $1,188 in dividends in 2006 and another $2,754 in dividends in 2005. In the previous years, they reported no dividends of any kind.

Indeed, even though Michelle Obama had income from the University of Chicago's Hospital System that exceeded $1 million during the period the tax returns were filed, she appears to have neither a 401(k) plan nor an IRA for retirement contributions. In another sign the Obama household wasn't into building a nest egg, the couple cashed out $6,260 from a pension or 401(k) plan in 2000.

Given all this, Mr. Ellis asks why the Senator is so "hell-bent on pursuing punitive taxes on capital that would wreck America's retirement savings?" His answer: Perhaps it's "because, by and large, he doesn't have any skin in the game."

The thing that is most worrisome about this issue is the responsibility issue. The Obamas are in their mid-40s and it appears their retirement planning is woeful. Just as voters rightly raise eyebrows at candidates for public office (especially offices with taxing authority) who have declared bankruptcy, failure to plan for your own retirement may also be a red flag. And it's not as though the Obamas are living paycheck to paycheck like many Americans.

0 comments on “The investor class”

  1. Obama's retirement plan is same as Byrd's and Helm's retirement plans: live at public expense, accept campaign "contributions," retire at 70 after years of "service" on a government pension. He'll be worth $10 million (adjusted for inflation) by the time he's 60. With a personal wealth like that, who needs IRA or 401K?


Why, one must ask, was the suit against Biden's student debt wipe “inevitable”?

Was it because the Biden admin is in flagrant violation of the law, and because *everyone* in America knows it?

Not in Waldman’s view, apparently. | @charlescwcooke

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March 2008



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