The Wyoming Retirement Security Task Force met for the first time in Cheyenne on June 21 to discuss ways the state can help put more money in its citizens pockets after they retire.
The 11-person committee, created by the legislature in the 2018 session, is charged with examining and making recommendations concerning the preparedness of Wyoming residents to retire in a financially secure manner. Just as important, the task force will also attempt to determine the fiscal impact to the state’s social safety net programs that a lack of retirement savings can have.
June’s Retirement Security Task Force meeting was the first of four planned meetings that are open to the public. Wyoming isn’t the first state to realize the concern. Polly Scott, of the Wyoming Retirement System, notes that 40 other states are also examining the amount of money its citizens are able to save. She also points out the 45 percent of American homes have no assets saved for retirement, making the work of this task force and others like it around the country very important.
The theme of June’s task force meeting was to determine what Wyoming citizens are saving and why they aren’t saving more. That meant a day of statistics painting a fairly grim picture of the retirement landscape.
The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services’ Research and Planning group has been conducting employer surveys, including those which ask employers what benefits they offer their workers, since 1996. The research found 72 percent of Wyoming private sector employers do not offer a retirement plan.
Based on DWS data, it also seems clear that larger companies tend to offer retirement options to their employees, while smaller companies are not. According to DWS stats, just 18 percent of smaller firms, such as those with between one and four employees offer a retirement plan to employees. This becomes more important when combined with AARP research suggesting employees are 15 times more likely to save for retirement when they can do so through a payroll deduction at work.
Few Wyoming budgets are hit by a lack of retirement savings like that of the Wyoming Department of Health and Franz Fuchs, Policy Analyst with Wyoming Department of Health, presented to the task force on the impacts to Wyoming’s budget of underfunded retirements.
Retirement security figures prominently in the long term care discussion as it impacts those before they qualify for Medicaid dollars for long term care.
The Department of Health pays for those who can no longer pay for their own long term care. Currently the state pays $65 million per year for such care. He adds that the median total retirement savings is $104,000. With private long-term care costs running around $88,505 per year, he points out that even the median amount of retirement savings isn’t much to live on long-term and half of those who reach the age of 65 can expect to use long-term healthcare in their lifetime.
Anne Alexander, PhD. from the University of Wyoming offers the Task Force research pointing out Wyoming currently has around 87,000 persons of retirement age, a number that is projected to jump to 151,000 by 2028. The current national retirement gap (the amount needed for retirement versus the amount actually saved) is between $360,000 and $540,000. If that same gap exists in Wyoming, there are significant financial problems on the horizon for the state.
The next step for the task force will be to distribute surveys to the 5,000 employers in Wyoming who said they have not offered retirement benefits to their workers. The hope is to find out why and if there are ways the state can encourage them to do so. The data will hopefully be ready by the next task force meeting, August 13 at the AARP Wyoming office in Cheyenne. That meeting will feature testimony from experts around the country who have studied the issue of retirement security and what can be done about it.
The committee is made up of:
- Wyoming State Senator Jim Anderson;
- Wyoming State Representative Mark Kinner;
- Wyoming State Representative Dan Furphy (alternate);
- Lisa Jerde Spillman, of the State Treasurer's Office;
- Department of Workforce Service, Director John Cox;
- Sam Shumway, State Director AARP;
- Jay Schneiders; Rock Springs Red Horse Oil Company;
- Ashley Bright, Chief Executive Officer; Casper Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming;
- Frank Boley, Vice President; D.A. Davidson & Company;
- Polly Scott, Communication and 457 Plan Manager for the Wyoming Retirement System.