Faces of the Growing Retirement Divide: Meet the 14 CEOs Whose Company Retirement Accounts Total $1.34 Billion

Fourteen of the CEOs of leading American corporations have at least $50 million in their company retirement accounts.  Four of these men accumulated more than $140 million each. Together, the 14 amassed more than $1.34 billion in retirement assets. Some of these funds are in pensions, the rest in deferred compensation accounts similar to 401(k)s.



Total Retirement Assets


Howard Schultz*

 $            183,248,336


David Cote

 $            148,406,532


John Hammergren*

 $            145,150,159


Mike Duke

 $            140,106,973


Richard Adkerson

 $              87,022,301

CVS Health

Larry Merlo

 $              87,022,301


Brian Roberts*

 $              85,455,644

Procter & Gamble

A.G. Lafley

 $              76,290,449

Weatherford International

Bernard Duroc-Danner

 $              73,313,811


John Strangfeld

 $              64,280,974

Exxon Mobil

Rex Tillerson

 $              63,396,096


Randall Stephenson

 $              62,010,175

General Electric

Jeffrey Immelt

 $              61,091,015


Ian Read

 $              57,138,046



 $        1,335,014,261

*Note: Total retirement assets represents maximum value of account during the last year. Five executives withdrew funds from their deferred compensation accounts during the year: Starbucks Howard Schultz withdrew $182,641,041 from his deferred compensation account during 2013; he ended the year with $607,295 in his company retirement account; McKesson’s John Hammergren withdrew $1,091,395 and ended the year with $144,058,764 in his retirement account C;omcast’s Brian Roberts withdrew $19,607,520 from his account ending the year with $65,848,124; Procter & Gamble’s A.G. Lafley withdrew $18,532,253 from his retirement account ending the year with $57,758,196; and AT&T’s Randall Stephenson withdrew $690,869 from his retirement account, ending the year with $61,319,306 in his company retirement account.

Yet these uber-wealthy corporate chieftains were not alone. More than 300 Americans have accumulated more than $25 million in their individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Three hundred people is about the number that can squeeze in a city subway car, but these 300 folks have no need for mass transit – they have an average of $250 million each in their IRAs.

Things look very different at the other end of the economic spectrum. More than 42 million Americans of more modest means have  less than $1 million in their IRAs; with a median IRA balance of just $34,000, according to new data reported by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Unlike many CEOs who are pouring assets into their corporate retirement plans, a worrisome share of working Americans are draining their retirement nest eggs at an alarming rate. In 2010, 9.3 percent of people with 401(k)s paid penalties for early withdrawals, according to Matt Fellowes, a former public policy professor at Georgetown University. They removed $60 billion from their retirement pools, more than a fifth of the $294 billion in new money employers contributed to 401(k)s for their workers’ benefit. Fellowes examined 401(k)s offered as retirement plans by many employers, not IRAs that are individually funded, but there’s good reason to think the trends Fellowes observed are also true for IRAs.  The time period studied aligns with the period of highest unemployment during the Great Recession. This past summer, the Center for Effective Government sponsored seven Witness Wednesdays events in which we gathered on Capitol Hill and read stories sent in to us from people who had been out of work for more than six months and who had been cut off from their federal emergency unemployment benefits. Draining their retirement savings to afford daily living expenses was one of the dominant themes of those stories. (To read some of these heart-wrenching stories, click here.)

It’s good policy to encourage citizens to save for their retirement. The United States accomplishes this by allowing each taxpayer to put up to $18,000 a year ($24,000 a year for workers over 50) in their 401(k) plans or $5,500 in their IRAs ($6,500 if they are over 50). These contributions can be deducted from taxable income reported on tax returns. These tax breaks that help workers prepare for retirement cost the U.S. Treasury tens of billions of dollars each year.

IRAs and 401(k)s are intended to fund a secure retirement for hard-working Americans, not to provide a tax-free pool for accumulating limitless wealth. In order to address the growing retirement divide, President Obama has proposed capping tax-free IRAs at $3 million. If Obama’s proposal is adopted, 45,000 Americans with IRAs larger than $3 million would pay about $1 billion in additional taxes. This $1 billion could be a down payment on a new round of emergency unemployment benefits so that the 3 million Americans who remain out of work for work for more than six months don’t have to continue to put their future security at risk by tapping their retirement accounts, simply to survive another day in the present.

Obama’s proposal is sound policy, but more is needed. America’s CEOs should no longer be able to place an unlimited amount of their corporate paychecks in executive deferred compensation plans where such wealth is out of reach of tax authorities.

Former Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke put $19 million in his deferred compensation account last year, saving almost $7 million on his personal taxes. Those who work in Wal-Mart's stores are not nearly so lucky. Last month, the retail giant announced it was raising health insurance costs for 1.2 million employees and curtailing health insurance entirely for 30,000 part-time employees.

Data source: All retirement data include both pension asset and non-qualified deferred compensation assets as reported in each company’s most recent proxy (as of Nov. 3, 2014) filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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good article
...indeed. What do people like us have to look forward to when we retire? A meager cheque from the SSA every month that will barely pay our rent and utilities. ...and of course, that is only if the programme survives and is not turned over to the "too big to fill" banks to manage.