by Senator Lee Beyer and Representative Tobias Read
The numbers are staggering. Right now more than 70 million Americans work without access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan; and nearly half of all income for Oregon retirees comes from Social Security. What’s more, Oregon’s senior population is expected to double in the next 20 years.
That’s why we’re proud to be co-sponsors of legislation to make retirement security a possibility for every Oregonian. Our legislation would establish the Oregon Retirement Security Savings Board, to evaluate the best, most cost-effective way to set up a state-wide retirement savings plan in Oregon. The Board will have the chance to evaluate different plans before implementing the best option. The bill follows on the good work of a legislative task force that included numerous experts. The task force recommended a number of key features (available here) that the plan should follow.
On the heels of the worst recession of our lifetime, too many Oregonians aren’t on track to have the resources they need for retirement. Many are still working to recover from the recession and save as they’d like.
Retirement is the culmination of a lifetime of work, and unfortunately solutions to these challenges won’t come overnight.
Not only are we concerned as Oregonians, we’re alarmed as legislators. When people retire without the means to support themselves, we see increased demands on the state. Our resources are not unlimited and when we must spend more on social services, it means less to invest in schools, universities, roads and other productive purposes.
This is not an issue that Oregon faces alone, but we are often leaders in finding innovative solutions to national problems. We’ve been working with colleagues in Illinois, who recently passed a landmark retirement security bill, and California where they are debating the issue now.
We want to learn lessons from those states and elsewhere and craft a uniquely Oregon approach.
Our proposal would ask the Retirement Savings Board to set up a plan that automatically enrolls Oregonians who don’t have access to one in a retirement savings plan, (with an opportunity to opt out). Accounts would be individually owned, funded by their own contributions, and would follow owners from job to job. This approach would allow participants to take advantage of the lower costs made possible by pooling their accounts with other Oregonians and benefiting from professional management.
Increasing access to retirement savings will ensure a better future for working Oregonians and for our state by making it easier for people to accumulate the resources they need to retire comfortably.
The longer we wait, the bigger the problem becomes. Maurice Saatchi said it eloquently in the Financial Times when he observed that, “America was born out of a desire for self-determination, a longing for the human dignity that only independence can bring.”
Let’s embrace our state’s heritage and make it easier for Oregonians to save. Please let your legislator know you support HB 2960 and SB 615 and follow our proposal’s progress. Find your Oregon legislator here.