Thasunda Brown Duckett knows the consequences of not strategically investing in a retirement plan. As the CEO of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA), she is committed to providing quality retirement and investment solutions benefitting employees at organizations. Yet it was not too long ago that she realized her own father never fully benefitted from his earnings in retirement.
“The information his company was providing [about retirement benefits] didn’t connect with a man in the warehouse,” Duckett told Maria Aspan at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Conference.
Duckett’s father, Otis Brown, invested in his pension but never participated in further investment planning. As a result, Brown lost years of savings and interest that would have allowed him to reap benefits in retirement.
Duckett is one of two Black women holding positions as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Before joining TIAA in 2021, Duckett served as CEO of Chase Consumer Banking and Chase Auto Finance. Yet her position at TIAA allows her the opportunity to close income and retirement gaps for employees at the companies TIAA serves.
Duckett told audience members that she advocates for employees such as security guards and administrative assistants who also need to invest wisely in their retirements. This means that companies need to communicate with all members of their workforce, not just executives.
Disparities In Retirement Planning
Duckett’s father is just one example of the challenges faced with retirement planning. According to the Economic Innovation Group, 41% of Black American families had retirement savings as compared to 68% of white counterparts. In addition, Black and Latino households have half the retirement wealth of the average white household.
In addition, an estimated 40 of Americans risk running out of money in their retirement because they did not diversify their retirement investments. In an economic market characterized by volatility, she said it is especially important to have a robust investment portfolio.
“The Fed has been very clear,” Duckett said during the conference. “It wants inflation down to 2 percent; currently it’s at 8.3 percent. A recession is looking likely. The question is how long and how hard? We don’t know.”
Duckett adds that while TIAA has no control over inflation or the stock market, it can control its ability to provide customers with information that will help them retain wealth. The company advises customers to diversify investments and have a sustainable income–especially during a financially tumultuous time.
In addition, Duckett is concerned about how women will be harmed during the recession. Women retire with 30 percent less than men due to pay inequity and less financial planning throughout their careers.
However, Duckett believe that companies should do their due diligence in closing the wage gap and making financial planning resources available to all employees.
“Are people taking advantage of the benefits?” Duckett asked. “What are the outcomes that these benefits are yielding?”