Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  What is Retirement USA?

Answer:  Retirement USA is a national campaign that is working for a new retirement system that, along with Social Security, will provide universal, secure, and adequate income for future retirees.  While the organizations involved in this effort are all committed to improving the current private retirement system as much as possible, we cannot ignore the fact that the current patchwork system will remain inadequate and insecure for millions of workers, regardless of how many changes are made.  That’s why we believe that there needs to be a new retirement system that supplements Social Security -- one that embraces shared responsibility among workers, employers, and the government.

Retirement USA has developed 12 principles, which we believe will lead to a secure and adequate retirement for all American workers (see the Retirement USA one-pager).

Question:  Who is Retirement USA?

Answer:  Retirement USA was started by the AFL-CIO, the Economic Policy Institute, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Pension Rights Center, and the Service Employees International Union.  So far, several other organizations have signed on in support of Retirement USA’s principles (see the list of supporters).

Question:  What has Retirement USA accomplished?


  • In March 2009, we launched Retirement USA by announcing a set of 12 principles for retirement security.  These principles are a framework for a new system.
  • We have started a national dialogue about the need for a new retirement system to supplement Social Security.
  • We have gathered more than 20 proposals for a new retirement system, six of which were highlighted at our Re-Envisioning Retirement Security conference in October 2009.
  • Several groups have signed onto the initiative so far. We are continuing to reach out to a diverse range of groups for their support (see the list of supporters).
  • We are launching a public education campaign on the retirement income crisis with “Wake Up, Washington!” Month, a speak-out on retirement security (see #7 and the “Wake Up, Washington!” Month one-pager).

Question: What is the status of Retirement USA?  Is the campaign supporting a specific proposal?

Answer:   Retirement USA has established 12 principles, which provide a framework for a new system.  We are examining a range of proposals that could help put these principles into practice, but we are not supporting a specific proposal yet.  Our current focus is on changing the current retirement conversation that ignores the challenges workers and retirees face

Question:  Will a Retirement USA system replace traditional pensions?

Answer:  There will be a “carve-out” for existing plans that provide equally secure and adequate benefits.  Those plans will be encouraged to continue as part of a new system.  

Question:  How will my 401(k) plan and IRA be affected by Retirement USA?

Answer:  People will always be able to save money on top of the Retirement USA plan -- in 401(k)s and other savings plans.  But 401(K) plans alone do not provide sufficient retirement income for most people.  That’s why we need a new system to provide a basic level of retirement savings on top of Social Security and to provide true retirement security.

Question:  Doesn’t Social Security already provide universal, secure, and adequate income in retirement?

Answer:  Social Security provides a necessary foundation of income in retirement, but it is not adequate as the sole source of retirement income.  In 2010, the average Social Security recipient receives about $14,000 a year.  The Retirement USA principles aim to provide individuals with adequate income in retirement when combined with Social Security.  For additional information on Social Security, visit the Strengthen Social Security ( and Social Security Works ( websites.

We have a strong tradition of private retirement plans in this country.  We need to strengthen Social Security, but we also need to build a better private retirement system that  complements and supplements Social Security.

Question:  What is “Wake Up, Washington!” Month?

Answer“Wake Up, Washington!” Month is a speak-out on retirement security, a chance for Americans to speak out about their concerns for retirement and to tell Washington to pay attention to their concerns.  It will run from September 15 to October 15, 2010.  The month marks the launch of Retirement USA’s public education campaign (see the “Wake Up, Washington!” Month one-pager).

During the month, Retirement USA will launch a Story Bank – a collection of personal statements from people of all walks of life about their hopes and fears for retirement.  (See the Story Bank one-pager.)  Organizations and individuals around the country will use their blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to speak out about retirement issues.