How the Department of Labor is Empowering Workers to Retire with Security

Secretary Walsh and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend lead a panel discussion about retirement.

Every single American worker should be able to retire with security. It’s fundamental to the dignity of work, that at a certain age, you can step away, live comfortably and focus on things and people that you love.   

And it’s fundamental to the Department of Labor’s mission that every worker be empowered with the tools, resources and protections they need to make that a reality. That’s why we have an agency dedicated to this work — the Employee Benefits Security Administration — that enforces the law and advises workers on their retirement rights and their options.   

A flawed system and a growing concern 

Unfortunately, our nation’s retirement system does not provide security for all workers. This is in part because, in the past, more workers had pensions with defined benefits, which meant that their jobs promised them a steady, secure income for their entire lives. 

Today, these types of plans are less common, and many workers don’t have that level of security, which is a cause for concern: Polls regularly show that retirement is one of Americans’ topic economic concerns, and millions of workers in every industry and at every stage of their careers face uncertainty and anxiety when it comes to retirement. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. America’s workers are among the most productive in the world, and they shouldn’t have to live with these concerns — or live in poverty after a lifetime of hard work.  

A new campaign to make retirement simple, easy and secure  

That’s why the Department of Labor launched a new campaign on retirement security, and why we’re eager to hear more from America’s workers about their concerns and how we can address them.  The simple fact is: We need a retirement system where no one has to worry about outliving their money, and where plans are easy to access from the beginning of your career; and easy to stick with, even as you change jobs and employers.  To boil it down, we need to make retirement simple, easy and secure. And we’re committed to making this happen by elevating the public conversation, collaborating across sectors and galvanizing everyone invested in this issue.  

Fighting the stigma around retirement anxiety 

But there’s one barrier to having this conversation that we must first tear down to make any real progress: The stigma surrounding retirement fears and anxiety. For too long, people have believed that they’re doing a bad job saving for retirement — a belief that puts all the burden and blame on the worker.  This is the kind of stigma that prevents us from having conversations, understanding problems and finding solutions. It’s important that all workers know that their retirement fears are not their fault and that they are not alone in their struggles. If more people can share their experiences, we can open up this conversation, and we can start improving that system. 

That’s why the Department of Labor kicked off this campaign, and why we’re eager to engage workers of all ages and all industries in this effort. Together, we can help build a system where all workers are able to retire with security. 


Marty Walsh is the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Follow him on Twitter: @SecMartyWalsh.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Representative for Pensions and Retirement