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Plan to Expand Access to Retirement Plans Forges Ahead

Research suggests that workers are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if it happens through automatic deductions at work. (Pixabay)
Research suggests that workers are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if it happens through automatic deductions at work. (Pixabay)
September 12, 2018

CASPER, Wyo. – Wyoming is moving forward with efforts to make sure all workers have access to a retirement plan through their jobs.

State Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenwood, leads a task force exploring options to help workers put a small portion of each paycheck toward a retirement fund.

He said just 43 percent of Wyoming's private workforce has access to an employer-sponsored plan, and added the average U.S. household has only $2,500 saved for retirement.

"The problem is that in Wyoming, 21 percent of our population is 60 and above," said Anderson. "And what they're finding when they're going to retire is they don't have enough money, so they have to go back to work to support themselves or to pay for their health care."

When people don't have enough savings, he explained, taxpayers end up on the hook. Recent University of Wyoming analysis found even an extra $1,000 saved by residents most at risk could save the state $18 million per year in services such as Medicaid.

Some skeptics say government shouldn't be in the retirement planning business, while others argue increasing Social Security benefits would more efficiently resolve what has become a national problem.

Anderson noted that one challenge is finding a plan that can be portable, since many of the workers most in need have seasonal or multiple jobs. He acknowledged that small businesses already operating on thin profit margins can't handle added expenses, so the state or another funding source could have to be tapped.

Another challenge is to convince workers that deductions from their paychecks will pay off down the road.

"You have to have the belief that that money is being invested wisely and they're making money on their money," he said. "That's why there has to be an exclusive statement for them, for their account, so they can see their money in that account and what's happening with it."

The state's Retirement Security Task Force is set to meet again Sept. 18 in Casper. Anderson said he's hopeful that, after months of research, the group can start putting a concrete plan together.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY