Superannuation Conference 2009 reflections

Amid the recent worldwide economic woes one financial sector that has been hit particularly hard is pension funds – superannuation in Australia, 401(k)s in the U.S.

A 401(k) plan allows a worker to save for retirement and have the savings invested while deferring income taxes on the saved money and earnings until withdrawal. The employee elects to have a portion of his or her wages paid directly, or “deferred,” into his or her 401(k) account. In participant-directed plans (the most common option), the employee can select from a number of investment options, usually an assortment of mutual funds that emphasize stocks, bonds, money market investments, or some mix of the above.

Many are, despite years of hard work and dedicated payments into pension funds, now find themselves on the verge of losing significant and even crippling amounts from their retirement savings.

I was recently the closing speaker at an intensive, three-day superannuation industry conference. There was much discussion of causes, effects, and possible solutions. Speaking with many of the delegates before my presentation gave me quick insight into the fact that there were no definitive answers on just how or when the crisis would be rectified.

With that in mind my objective was to focus my presentation outside of the ifs, whats, hows, whys, or whos. They were there with questions. My answer was to connect heads to hearts. To highlight the need, now more than ever, to find creative ways to stay engaged with their clients, their own dreams, and their goals.

Some things are simply outside of our control. We must accept this. The key is to concentrate on the things that we can change. That should comprise our vision and purpose for what we do and who we are.

And that kind of attitude is contagious. Contagious positive attitudes on their own don’t solve problems. But without them, creative solutions will continue to elude us.