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Oregon Retirement Savings Board Gets to Work

Members of the Oregon Retirement Savings Board are creating a workplace savings plan for people who don't have one. (Oregon Retirement Savings Board)
Members of the Oregon Retirement Savings Board are creating a workplace savings plan for people who don't have one. (Oregon Retirement Savings Board)
December 29, 2015

SALEM, Ore. - It will be a busy new year for the board charged with creating a retirement savings plan for people in Oregon who don't have one where they work.

While the launch date still is more than a year away, one key element of the Oregon Retirement Savings Plan known as "Work and Save" already has been determined: A person automatically will be enrolled by his or her employer.

Having to opt out instead of opt in will make a big difference in the number of people who stick with it and save, according to the plan's executive director, Lisa Massena.

"Their funds go into investments that make sense for them based on their expected retirement date, and they're given plenty of flexibility to make changes to what they're doing, or to opt out of the plan altogether," she said. "But if they do nothing, from the start they'll be on a better path and be much more successful."

Massena said the board is doing a market analysis and looking into four areas: plan design and program design, financial literacy and outreach. Some in the financial services industry remain critical of the state plan as a potential competitor, but Massena prefers to think of it as a safety net.

According to AARP, people are 15 times more likely to save through a workplace payroll deduction plan than on their own. Massena said it's an approach worth trying, since surveys show one in six Oregonians ages 45 to 64 has saved less than $5,000 for retirement.

"There are folks who think that simply by increasing financial literacy and providing people with more education and information, that there are plenty of choices available and that the problem will be solved," she said. "The fact is, while it helps, it hasn't solved the problem, and we still have many, many people who are not ready."

Particularly for younger workers for whom retirement isn't an urgent priority, she said, research has shown automatic enrollment greatly increases the percentage who save.

The plan is supposed to be ready for savers by mid-2017. The board has met twice so far; the next meeting is Jan. 5 in Tigard.

Board information is online at oregon.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR