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Poll: WI Small Businesses Want to Help Workers Save for Future

About 1 million Wisconsin workers do not have an employer-sponsored retirement savings program. (Adobe Stock)
About 1 million Wisconsin workers do not have an employer-sponsored retirement savings program. (Adobe Stock)
November 13, 2019

MADISON, Wis. - As state leaders examine ways to improve retirement security, some small businesses are expressing interest in a Wisconsin retirement savings program.

State data show 400,000 Wisconsinites are at risk of retiring in poverty by 2030, and nearly 1 million workers in the state don't have an employer-sponsored retirement savings program. Lisa Lamkins, federal issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, said many small-business owners want to offer that option to their workers, but struggle with it.

"There are lots of barriers," she said. "If they're doing it on their own, it can be too costly to operate it or too complicated or time consuming. They may, and likely don't have a human resources person who can figure all of this out."

According to a new AARP Wisconsin poll, 77% of small-business owners support an option that will help workers save for retirement at their jobs. Lamkins said the findings will be helpful for the Governor's Task Force on Retirement Security, which recently held its first of six meetings as it prepares recommendations to be presented in August 2020.

Research shows that Americans are 15 times more likely to save for retirement when they can do so at work, and Lamkins contended that Social Security isn't enough to depend on.

"A lot of people think, 'Oh, I'll be fine. Social Security will be there.' But the average Social Security benefit in Wisconsin is a little over $1,400 a month," she said. "If you're going to rely on that, there's not going to be enough money to handle basic expenses like rent, utilities, food."

Ten states have launched various "Work and Save" programs, which Lamkins said is a simple way for businesses to offer workers a way to save for retirement through a payroll deduction.

"States have realized that they need to pay attention to the growing poverty among seniors and the economic insecurity when people don't have enough money in retirement," she said. "If people haven't saved enough, they're likely to end up on government safety-net programs, which cost the state and taxpayers money."

The poll also found 80% of small-business owners agreed that retirement savings plans help small businesses attract employees and stay competitive; and 85% said state lawmakers should support a Wisconsin retirement savings option.

Disclosure: AARP Wisconsin contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - WI