While that characterization is perhaps something of an overstatement, it is unquestionably a special holiday, and one on which it seems a reflection on all we have to be thankful for is fitting.
Here’s my list for 2009:
First off, I’m thankful that the financial markets have stepped back from the precipice we were surely standing at a year ago. I’m thankful that the investment markets have recovered from the worst of the losses of 2008, even if we still have a long way to go. I’m thankful that so many Americans seem to be concerned about the nation’s fiscal health—and hopeful that those concerns will resonate with those who make decisions that affect it.
I’m thankful that relatively few employers felt the need (or took the opportunity) to cut matching contributions this year—and even more thankful to see so many of those who did cut the match restore it.
I’m thankful that so many employers have remained committed to their defined benefit plans and—often despite media reporting to the contrary—continue to make serious, consistent efforts to meet funding requirements that are quite different than when most initially decided to offer these programs. I’m thankful that a core group of lawmakers in Washington continues to be attentive to the very real challenges imposed by those rules, and continue to be proactive in responding to rational relief measures during this difficult economic period.
I’m thankful that so many participants now seem to have a greater appreciation for the importance of prudent, diversified investing—and thankful, though it was a painful lesson for some, that the deep differences in philosophy that underlie target-date investments are being better communicated and understood. I’m thankful that so many participants took it upon themselves to increase their contribution levels during the downturn, and that so few dipped into those retirement plan accounts to tide them through the rough patches.
I’m thankful that plan sponsors will soon have access to more information about the expenses paid by their plans—and optimistic that it won’t be as bad as they fear. I’m thankful that we’re no longer talking about whether fees should be disclosed to participants, but are now trying to figure out to do it.
I’m thankful for the intelligence, experience, and professionalism of the folks that regulate our industry—and who do so consistently, despite the occasional changes in “the guard.”
I’m thankful to be part of a growing company in an important industry at a critical time. I’m thankful to be able to, in some small way, make a difference on a daily basis.
And, of course, I’m thankful that so many good and capable advisers were available to participants during the worst of the downturn.
I’m thankful for the home I have found at PLANSPONSOR and then with PLANADVISER, and the warmth with which its loyal readers have embraced me, as well as the many who have “discovered” us during the past 10 years. I’m thankful for all of you who have supported—and I hope benefited from—our various conferences, designation program, and communications throughout the year. I’m thankful for the constant—and enthusiastic—support of our advertisers, even in a year that has been tough for so many.
But most of all, I’m once again thankful for the unconditional love and patience of my family, the camaraderie of dear friends and colleagues, the opportunity to write and share these thoughts—and for the ongoing support and appreciation of readers like you.