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AARP Aims to Help Arkansas Workers Save for Retirement

AARP Arkansas is advocating for the state Legislature to establish a Work and Save program to help Arkansans save for their retirement. (vaeenma/iStockphoto)
AARP Arkansas is advocating for the state Legislature to establish a Work and Save program to help Arkansans save for their retirement. (vaeenma/iStockphoto)
December 26, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – America may be headed for a retirement crisis, since fewer than half of workers age 50 or older have a significant amount of money set aside in savings or investments.

In Arkansas, only about half of private businesses offer their employees a retirement plan, which means thousands of workers must come up with a program on their own. Vanessa Nehus, associate state director of advocacy for AARP Arkansas, said AARP is advocating for Arkansas to offer a state-assisted retirement plan for workers who don't have one.

"Work and Save is a program that we've been promoting around the country,” Nehus said. "It is legislation that would establish state-assisted retirement plans to encourage Arkansas residents to increase their rate of savings to build assets for their retirement."

Work and Save is designed to provide Arkansas workers with a structured program to help them save for their retirement. The average Social Security check is about $1,300 a month, Nehus said, and more than half of Social Security recipients who are 65 and older rely on it for at least half of their income.

According to Nehus, a large percentage of employers in Arkansas are small businesses, who often can't afford to set up a retirement plan for their employees.

"We know that in Arkansas, 54 percent of the 530,000 private-sector employees work for an employer who does not offer a retirement plan,” she said. "And so, we know that puts them at a significant disadvantage."

Studies have shown that just having a plan available will prompt many workers to start saving, Nehus said.

"It takes an effort on the part of small businesses to sort that all out and set up some of those auto-enrollment features,” she said. "This would just kind of take some of that work out of it, and the state would take on organizing of it, but the employees would be responsible for all the contributions."

The Work and Save programs is a win-win for both businesses and their employees, Nehus said. AARP is working to introduce a Work and Save proposal in the Arkansas Legislature in January.

More information is available online at aarp.org.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR