BURLINGTON -- For his work to find easier ways for workers to save more of what they earn for retirement, Representative Stephen Ross was presented with an AARP “Super Saver” award at a special presentation made at a monthly meeting of the Triad Retirement Living Association.
Rep. Ross is one of four NC lawmakers being honored by AARP nationally for advancing commonsense policies that help older Americans. Other NC recipients include Sen. Bill Rabon, Rep. Jon Hardister and Rep Bobby Hanig.
AARP North Carolina Director Mike Olender said, “Scoring a legislative victory is no easy task. It requires fierce determination, a command of the issues, and a willingness to compromise to get things done. That’s why each year AARP recognizes state legislators, governors, and other elected officials who have stepped up and worked together to advance helpful policies.”
Rep. Ross successfully co-sponsored a bill creating a study committee to look for ways to make it easier for small businesses to offer workplace retirement plans. AARP North Carolina actively supported the measure.
The committee—made up of lawmakers, state officials, a small-business owner, advocates for labor and older residents, and a retired financial expert—is required to make recommendations to the NC General Assembly by the end of March.
“The lack of retirement savings crisis will affect all of us as it increasingly adds to already strained safety net programs for older adults on limited income,” said Lisa Riegel, AARP North Carolina advocacy manager.
Employees are 15 times more likely to save for retirement through automatic payroll deductions, but about half of all workers don’t have access to them, the AARP Public Policy Institute estimates.
There are different ways a savings program could be set up. Some states have pooled employers together and created 401(k)–style retirement plans. Others have established an online marketplace where small businesses and their employees can shop for plans from financial providers.
Connecticut and Oregon created IRA (Individual Investment Account) programs that mean the employer has no responsibility for the program (no match or fiscal responsibility) other than to offer the program to their employees.
Workers decide how much to save and how to invest it; employers are prohibited by federal law to contribute to this type of plan. Funds are pooled and professionally managed by the financial industry.
Typically, the programs are public-private partnerships designed to pay for themselves with low (<1%) fees, and not be a cost to the taxpayers or the small businesses. The plans are also portable, so employees can keep them if they switch jobs.
The bottom line according to Mike Olender, is taking the best from what has been done and developing a plan that is right for North Carolina workers and small businesses. “Creating greater retirement savings benefits older adults, their families, and precious public resources that can be spent on other priorities,” he said.
AARP’s fifth class of Super Savers includes three governors, three state treasurers, and 12 state legislators who led efforts to help workers increase their retirement savings.
A list of AARP’s 2019 Super Savers and the efforts they championed can be found here.