South Carolinians have always had a fiercely independent spirit. However, we can’t be truly independent without the financial resources to meet the ever-rising costs of living. In today’s reality, a secure and independent future is out of reach for far too many South Carolinians.

South Carolina is 50th worst in the nation when it comes to retirement savings. That’s no surprise when you consider that 70% of our workforce – around 1.25 million hard-working South Carolinians – do not have access to a retirement savings plan at work. Yet, research shows that Americans are 15 times more like to save when they can do so out of their regular paycheck at work. Of course, we all start saving the day we start working through our Social Security, right?

Social Security is a vital piece of the retirement puzzle, but it is not enough to depend on. In South Carolina, the average Social Security benefits for a 65 and older family is under $20,000 a year, while 65+ families on average spend over $21,000 a year on food, utilities, and healthcare alone. At this rate, half of all households will be unable to afford their basic needs in retirement, and many may need to rely on public assistance later in life.

So, how can we help hard-working South Carolinians save for the future? The answer is simple – Work and Save programs. Work and Save often operates like a 529 plan, and makes it easier for employees to build their own private retirement savings rather than having to depend on government programs later in life. In fact, research shows that South Carolina could save up to $37.5 million on public assistance simply by helping people to save for their own retirement.

Work and Save also allows small businesses to hire and keep valuable employees by giving them access to a low-cost, plug-and-play retirement program with very little administrative hassle. All the employer has to do is pass information on to the employees and add a simple line-item deduction to the employee payroll.

All across the nation, state are recognizing the need to help all workers grow savings so they can take control of their futures and deal with the rising costs of health care and living expenses. In the past six years, 10 states have passed Work and Save programs and it’s been proposed by two dozen more. We are South Carolinians and we have always believed in owning responsibility for our own destinies. It’s time for South Carolina to join these states in empowering our people to take hold of their future – it’s time to pass Work and Save.

Learn More: Feasibility Study of South Carolina’s Voluntary Multi-Employer Plan