Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Hallmark Holiday?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a certain ambivalence about what are generally termed “Hallmark holidays.”

You know the ones I’m talking about – the ones that seem crafted for the sole purpose of generating sales for greeting card sellers. Of course, after a while you no longer question their existence – and if one still struggles to remember exactly when “Grandparent’s Day” is, well, we’ve pretty much got Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day down to a science (one that might not be on your calendar is National Slap Your Irritating Co-Worker Day, October 23). Indeed, these days there are months on the calendar devoted to a whole series of acknowledgements and remembrances.

There are also a number of occasions set aside to recognize the importance of saving (America Saves Week –February ), the importance of planning for retirement (National Retirement Planning Month – July, and National Retirement Planning Week – April), and the issue of retirement security generally (National Retirement Security Week – October). There’s even a National Financial Literacy Month (April) and National Financial Planning Month (October).

While I’ve had some involvement with most of those during my career (mainly to remind folks about their occurrence) and, sadly, for many those events are often dismissed as “Hallmark holidays” – even for those of us who have made a career-long commitment to helping improve the nation’s retirement prospects.

That said, one that has stuck with me – even prior to our affiliation with the Plan Sponsor Council of America – is 401(k) Day. This year it falls on Friday, September 6 – a date chosen in acknowledgement of the fact that, as retirement follows labor, this focus on retirement follows Labor Day (fans of history or trivia may appreciate that then-President Gerald Ford signed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) into law on the day after Labor Day, 1974).

Of course, these days the focus has broadened, and incorporates a focus on financial wellness ahead of retirement, as well as preparations for that time yet to come. Like retirement itself, the preparations are best attended to on an on-going basis, rather than a single date on the calendar.

Readers of this publication are all too aware of the challenges that confront our nation’s retirement savings system – widespread financial illiteracy, a persistent coverage gap, and looming shortfalls in the underpinnings of Social Security. That “familiarity” with these complex issues perhaps makes it too easy to dismiss the opportunity that an occasion like 401(k) Day represents.

Sure, we’re talking about these issues every day – but as a friend reminded me long ago, even a Hallmark holiday can provide an opportunity to pay attention to the people – and things – we often take for granted.

So, this year, let’s (all) take advantage of the “occasion” – all year long. You can find out how at

- Nevin E. Adams, JD

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