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Businesses Helping Steer Direction of New Oregon Retirement Program

Under Oregon's new retirement savings program, people are saving about $50 per paycheck. (American Advisors Group/Flickr)
Under Oregon's new retirement savings program, people are saving about $50 per paycheck. (American Advisors Group/Flickr)
February 26, 2018

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon is listening to businesses on how to tweak the state’s novel saving option for employees as the program continues its roll out.

OregonSaves is an alternative for workers whose employers don't offer a retirement savings option, giving employees the chance to save part of their paycheck automatically and also bring those savings to other jobs if they want.

In late December, rollout of the program was going well enough among bigger businesses that OregonSaves began asking smaller businesses to join.

Lisa Massena, executive director of OregonSaves, says it's been possible with guidance from employers.

"One thing to know is Oregon is a small business state,” she points out. “We have many, many small businesses, and so a wide range of circumstances, so we're always keeping our eye out for whether we've identified something new, how the program can continue to be pretty easy to work with, regardless of who you are."

The program still is officially a month away from phase two, when it will invite businesses with 50 to 99 employees, although smaller employers already are joining.

Under the program, workers save 5 percent of their paycheck, but employees are able to opt out.

OregonSaves is the first program of its kind in the nation and Massena says people are saving about $50 per paycheck so far.

About 1 million Oregonians are eligible for the program.

Massena says retirement savings are critical, but there are many who struggle to put away money.

"I think we all know folks who tell us from time to time that, 'I guess I'm just going to work until I die because I haven't been saving anything and I don't have another option,'” she relates. “And that's not where any of us wants to be, and what we find is that when people have the opportunity to save at work, they are 15 times more likely to save for retirement."

Massena says officials in other states have been consulting with her about their programs before officially rolling them out. Her advice to them: Keep it simple.

OregonSaves is not connected to the Public Employees Retirement System.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR