Retirement Divide: 100 CEOs v. the Rest of Us

Media Contacts:

(Washington, D.C. ) – The presidential election put a spotlight on the economic insecurity millions of voters are feeling as the result of the loss of millions of unionized factory jobs that were once a major source of both decent pay and retirement benefits.

While white working class families have been the focus of much of this attention, a new Institute for Policy Studies report shows that the real retirement security divide lies between those at the top of corporate America and nearly all the rest of us.

Report and related graphics are available here.

KEY FINDINGS:

Just 100 CEOs have company retirement funds worth $4.7 billion — a sum equal to the entire retirement savings of the 41 percent of U.S. families with the smallest nest eggs.

This $4.7 billion total is also equal to the entire retirement savings of the bottom:

  • 59 percent of African-American families
  • 75 percent of Latino families
  • 55 percent of female-headed households
  • 44 percent of white working class households

On average, the top 100 CEO nest eggs are large enough to generate for each of these executives a $253,088 monthly retirement check for the rest of their lives.

  • Among ordinary workers, those lucky enough to have 401(k) plans had a median balance at the end of 2013 of $18,433, enough for a monthly retirement check of just $101.
  • Of workers 56-61 years old, 39 percent have no employer-sponsored retirement plan whatsoever and will likely depend entirely on Social Security, which pays an average benefit of $1,239 per month.

With nearly $3 billion in special tax-deferred accounts, Fortune 500 CEOs stand to gain enormously from Trump’s proposed tax cuts on top earners.

  • If President-elect Donald Trump succeeds in cutting the top marginal tax rate from 39.6 percent to 33 percent, Fortune 500 CEOs would save $196 million on the income taxes they would owe if they withdrew their tax-deferred funds.
  • Unlike ordinary 401(k) holders, most top CEOs have no limits on annual contributions to their tax-deferred accounts. In 2015 alone, Fortune 500 CEOs saved $92 million on their taxes by putting $238 million more in these accounts than they could have if they were subject to the same rules as other workers.
  • Michael Neidorff, the CEO of Centene, a provider of health plans to Medicaid recipients and other low-income Americans, has nearly $140 million in his deferred compensation account, up 658 percent since the 2010 launch of Obamacare.

The retirement asset gap between CEOs mirrors the racial and gender divides among ordinary Americans.

  • The 10 white male CEOs with the largest retirement funds hold a combined $1.4 billion, more than eight times more than the 10 CEOs of color with the largest retirement assets and nearly five times as much as the top 10 female CEOs.

“While slashing jobs and benefits for ordinary workers, CEOs of large companies have been feathering their own nests,” says Sarah Anderson, report co-author and director of the IPS Global Economy Project. “It’s no wonder so many American workers are concerned about whether their golden years will be tarnished by financial stress.”

This is the Institute’s second report on the CEO-worker retirement gap. Last year’s edition received coverage in BloombergUSA TODAYReutersCNN MoneyThe GuardianCBS Moneywatch, and Fortune, among other outlets.