Skip to Main Content (Press Enter) Toggle side nav

Social Insecurity

Best Seller
Social Insecurity by James W. Russell
Paperback $20.00
Apr 07, 2015 | ISBN 9780807014707

Buy from Other Retailers:

See All Formats (2) +
  • Apr 07, 2015 | ISBN 9780807014707

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Apr 29, 2014 | ISBN 9780807012567

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Apr 29, 2014 | ISBN 9780807012574

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Product Details


“This is the story of how one individual fought bureaucracy—and won…. His campaign is truly a case history to be emulated, one that requires much patience and time.”

“Retirement expert Russell (Double Standard) offers a sobering and persuasive analysis of the gradual shift from more secure defined-benefit plans (pensions) to riskier defined-contribution plans (401(k)s). When he retired at age 65, Russell should have had 70%–100% of his final salary as income, according to conventional wisdom, but despite a frugal lifestyle, he had only 45%–50% of his income, between his 401(k) and projected Social Security. Russell suggests that confusion about retirement saving leads average Americans to become the victims of a swindle perpetrated by think tanks and the financial services industry. He explains how popular economic theory, led by Milton Friedman’s Chicago School, turned against Social Security, and traces changes during the Reagan administration, when more companies switched from pensions to 401(k)s. Russell led a successful movement in his own company to switch back to pensions. As he notes, there’s now an international movement to go back to a plan where most retirement income is bolstered by pensions and Social Security—“the most successful retirement program by far in terms of the number of people who have benefited.” He closes with suggestions for how to put that plan into effect. The book is a hair-raising look at the dire retirement prospects of tens of millions of Americans.” —Publishers Weekly

“Russell (Double Standard) argues that defined-benefit pension plans are substantially better for both employees and employers than defined-contribution 401(k)-type retirement ones. The author’s message is that 401(k) plans are essentially scams that mainly benefit the financial services industry through the various fees that are charged. Having led, in Connecticut, one of the first successful employee movements to replace a state’s 401(k)-like retirement plan with a pension plan, Russell offers a unique view. In addition to recounting the experiences of the Connecticut Committee for Equity in Retirement, the author covers historical events that brought about changes to retirement policy in the United States. The book is full of statistics and useful tables that help readers to digest this complicated topic. Russell encourages readers to avoid the retirement pitfalls he writes about by learning as much as they can about the different systems, which he admits are confusing for most people, and suggests ways to do so. He argues that education on the topic is key. VERDICT Essential for anyone interested in the evolvement of retirement systems and how these changes affect their own retirement.”
Library Journal

“Labor educators will welcome his call for advocacy to address the looming economic challenges that confront workers nearing retirement age. Russell shines a light on the real consequences of the transition away from traditional ‘defined benefit’ pensions (funded by employers) to the ‘defined contribution’ model, or 401(k), funded primarily by employees.”
Labor Studies Journal

“In Russell’s well-researched, well-documented view, 401(k)s are essentially financial snake oil sold to a gullible public on the basis of false promises of steadily rising value…Russell demonstrates the pitfalls of relying on 401(k)s especially ably and succinctly…a valuable primer that provides a useful framework for analysis in a popular, deeply informative form.”
Science & Society

“Experts and lay people alike will be deeply enlightened by reading Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis, an incisive and compelling account of the harm caused by the disastrous jump into 401(k) plans as a major source of Americans’ retirement income. Professor James W. Russell places the trend towards 401(k) plans in an international perspective. His description of how Connecticut public employees successfully forced the state to allow them to switch from their 401(k)-type plan to the much more effective traditional pension plan is a fascinating tale. That victory by workers should serve as inspiration and a model for other workers who lack access to a traditional pension. The book is a must read for everyone concerned about the looming retirement income crisis facing the nation as well as their own ability to someday retire with financial security and independence.”
—Nancy J. Altman, co-founder, Social Security Works!

“James Russell is a formidable crusader with a gift for rendering an obtuse topic accessible. In Social Insecurity, he has penned a book that will enrage citizens of all ages and political persuasions, illuminate them about the organized robbery of their economic futures by the financial services industry, and inspire them to action. More than a description of a retirement system coopted by predatory bankers and fund managers, Social Insecurity is also a passionate account of the complicity of the global political elite and their ideological zealots, complete with a Hollywood moment of Russell’s victory in achieving reform measures that can benefit everybody.”
—Nomi Prins, author of All the Presidents’ Bankers and It Takes a Pillage

“Forget the TV ads of gray-haired retired couples on bicycle trips. If you’re an average American, you won’t have enough to retire on. The shift from old-fashioned pensions to 401(k)s has enriched Wall Street and jeopardized your future. Essential reading for anyone who works for a living—from millennials to boomers—James Russell’s Social Insecurity explains what you lost and who benefited from it.”
—Charles R. Morris, author of The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown and The Tycoons

“An absolutely necessary read! James Russell has written the book explaining how we all got sold on the ridiculous notion of do-it-yourself retirement savings, and why it was never, ever going to work for anyone but the financial services sector. A devastating indictment that nevertheless concludes with ideas for reversing a dangerous trend we can no longer afford to ignore.”
—Helaine Olen, author of Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

“You really can’t understand inequality in America today, James Russell helps us see, without understanding how Wall Street has grabbed a chokehold on our retirement savings system. We’re not ‘saving for retirement’ anymore. We’re enriching the 1 percent. Informative and stimulating, Social Insecurity offers us a sobering tale about a financial experiment gone terribly wrong—and some great ideas on what we can do to change how this story ends.”
—Sam Pizzigati, author of The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970

Table Of Contents


Before the Swindle

A Fix for What Wasn’t Broken

Army Tanks and Think Tanks

Targeting Social Security
and Public Worker Pensions

How 401(k)s Are Supposed to
Work and Why They Don’t

A Model Unravels

Turmoil in the Land of Steady Habits

What We Can Do

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Get the latest updates from James W. Russell
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
And go from well-read to best read with book recs, deals and more in your inbox every week.
By clicking SIGN UP, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
Something awesome is on its way.
Back to Top