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Task Force Ponders Oregonians' Paltry Retirement Savings

PHOTO: Too few feathers in that nest? Oregon's Joint Interim Task Force on Retirement Savings is exploring ways to help people save more, and more regularly. Photo credit: Pablo631/iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: Too few feathers in that nest? Oregon's Joint Interim Task Force on Retirement Savings is exploring ways to help people save more, and more regularly. Photo credit: Pablo631/iStockphoto.com.
May 14, 2014

SALEM, Ore. - Time may be running out for Baby Boomers to save enough money for a comfortable retirement, but Oregon's Joint Interim Task Force on Retirement Savings wants to ensure the next generations aren't in the same boat.

At a hearing beginning at 2:30 p.m. today at the state Capitol, the topic is how to make retirement savings as easy as possible. David John, senior strategic policy adviser for the AARP Public Policy Institute's Retirement Task Force, is among those testifying.

Research has shown that payroll-deduction savings plans are the most effective for people at all income levels, John said, but especially for small businesses, the typical plan can be expensive and complicated.

"One of the things we're going to be talking about," he said, "is a way to structure a retirement savings plan that limits what the employer has to do, and limits the kind of responsibilities that they would have to face."

The task force was created by the Legislature to address the fact that one in six people in Oregon has less than $5,000 saved for retirement, and only about half of working-age Oregonians have access to any type of retirement savings plan where they work.

Some people are convinced that retirement savings is a matter of personal responsibility, and that a company or the state shouldn't be involved. John said the reality is that most folks need some help with willpower and an incentive to save. He pointed to the overall lack of success with Individual Retirement Accounts.

"Among the people who only have access to an IRA, only about one out of 20 actually has such an account and contributes to it on a regular basis," he said. "So, 95 percent don't."

John said the picture for today's younger workers is complicated by the fact that most don't have pension plans.

The task force will present its recommendations to the Legislature this fall.

This Saturday, a Financial Security Workshop will also focus on budgeting and saving for the future. Co-sponsored by AARP Oregon and SEIU, it will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at SEIU headquarters, 6401 SE Foster Road, Portland.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR