Home' Superfunds : Superfunds February 2019 Contents expected’,” she says.
While her parents instilled a very strong sense of responsibility, they also
inculcated a “very great sense of adventure to climb mountains, to explore
the world, to listen to how other people live, to open yourselves to other
people’s pain and suffering. And enormous curiosity about what was going
on in the world ... To read, to think, to ask questions.”
However it was her father’s moral and social crusades against poverty and
discrimination that had some of the greatest impact. As Attorney General
from 1961 to 1964 he fought entrenched prejudice to improve the civil rights
of African Americans and end discrimination.
Townsend studied history and literature at Harvard before completing
a law degree at the University of New Mexico School of Law. She then
practiced as an attorney after moving back to her husband’s home state of
But, in essence, her father had challenged her to follow in his footsteps
into politics, once writing to her, “as the oldest of the next generation
you have a particular responsibility ... Be kind to others and work for your
Townsend ran for the US House of Representatives in Maryland’s second
congressional district but lost. In 1994, however, she was elected Lieutenant
Kennedy Townsend says she is most proud of the social reforms achieved
during her time in office. Through her advocacy Maryland became the first
(and still only) State to require community service as a condition of high
school graduation. She also made a big impact by encouraging police and
community leaders to work together and build trust with one another to
reduce crime in their communities.
And she brought mental health services, traditionally provided to high
school students, to elementary schools.
THE US RETIREMENT CHALLENGE
In 2002 she ran for Governor but lost to Republican Robert Ehrlich. The
loss triggered the Kathleen Brown-inspired move into finance. She became
managing director of Washington-based investment and advisory firm, Rock
Creek Group, where she also worked with a number of the firm’s major
clients. She is still involved with the company as a senior adviser.
But then she heard a talk by Randi Weingarten, the president of the
American Federation of Teachers, describing the terrible situation for retirees
in the US. Some 68 million Americans have nothing saved for retirement.
The median income for retirees is $US15,000. Even for the top 1 per cent of
income earners, the average retirement savings is $US200,000; for median
income earners it is just $US100,000.
Townsend notes that if Americans have no savings in retirement, they
rely on Social Security. For almost 50 per cent of American seniors, social
security provides at least 50 per cent of their income and for about one in
five seniors, Social Security provides at least 90 per cent of their income. The
average social security retirement benefit in June of 2018 was just $17,000
“I thought, this is a really horrendous situation,” Townsend says. “More
than 70 per cent of Americans fear retirement more than death, with good
reason, because they have so little savings.”
Townsend says there is increased awareness the US needs to solve this
problem, largely brought about by a growing baby boomer bulge and
changing work patterns. “People don’t work at the same job for 30 or 40
years like they used to. We need a different way of saving.”
She took action. She chaired the Governor’s Retirement Security Taskforce
in Maryland, which resulted in legislation that incentivises all businesses not
offering a retirement plan to offer an opt-out retirement option for their
employees. She is a board member of the entity created by that legislation.
She also founded the Centre for Retirement Initiative at Georgetown
University to promote retirement solutions at the state government level.
Townsend says those moves have been important. “But what we really
need is federal action to solve the problem,” she says.
She has now launched a national campaign to start a federal-guaranteed
Superfunds February 2019
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