Selfies Can Improve the Nation's Retirement Security

Plan Sponsor Magazine, Forthcoming

Posted: 22 Nov 2017

See all articles by Robert C. Merton

Robert C. Merton

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard Business School - Finance Unit

Arun Muralidhar

AlphaEngine Global Investment Solutions; George Washington University

Date Written: November 20, 2017


Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a stunning report, “The Nation’s Retirement System: A Comprehensive Re-evaluation Is Needed to Better Promote Future Retirement Security” (GAO-18-11SP), on the U.S.’ retirement preparedness. In the report, it notes, “The U.S. retirement system, and the workers and retirees it was designed to help, face major challenges. … individuals are increasingly responsible for planning and managing their own retirement savings accounts … [M]any households are ill-equipped for this task and have little or no retirement savings.” The report ends with a very strong recommendation, or plea, that, “Congress should consider establishing an independent commission to comprehensively examine the U.S. retirement system and … improve how the nation promotes retirement security.”

Coincidentally, the U.S. Treasury also issued a report, “A Financial System That Creates Economic Opportunities,” that makes the case for in-pension plan retirement income options and the importance of funding infrastructure. The U.S. government can have an immediate impact on the retirement challenge, create a liquid in-plan retirement income option, and raise funding for infrastructure by issuing a new type of long-term bond, one we call SeLFIES—Standard of Living indexed, Forward-starting, Income-only Securities. SeLFIES address many of the challenges raised in the GAO and U.S. Treasury reports and are also advantageous to the U.S. Treasury.

Keywords: Annuities; SeLFIES; US Treasury; General Accounting Office; in-plan retirement income; funding infrastructure; financial innovation; GBI; forward-starting bonds

JEL Classification: G11, G12

Suggested Citation

Merton, Robert C. and Muralidhar, Arun, Selfies Can Improve the Nation's Retirement Security (November 20, 2017). Plan Sponsor Magazine, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Robert C. Merton

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States
617 715 4866 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard Business School - Finance Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6678 (Phone)

Arun Muralidhar (Contact Author)

AlphaEngine Global Investment Solutions ( email )

Great Falls, VA
United States


George Washington University ( email )

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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