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Colorado Poised to Help More Workers Save for Retirement

Colorado workers without retirement savings are projected to put taxpayers on the hook for nearly $10 billion from 2021 to 2035, including higher costs to the state for health and other public assistance. (US Army)
Colorado workers without retirement savings are projected to put taxpayers on the hook for nearly $10 billion from 2021 to 2035, including higher costs to the state for health and other public assistance. (US Army)
January 7, 2020

DENVER -- Nearly half of U.S. families have zero retirement savings, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute report, and Colorado is taking steps to help workers avoid working late into their sunset years.

Tyler Jaeckel, director of policy and research with the Bell Policy Center, said a bill passed in the last legislative session to create a Secured Savings Retirement Plan could help some 918,000 Colorado workers who currently do not have access to retirement plans through their work.

"The number-one factor that drives increased retirement savings over time is having access to a retirement plan at work," Jaeckel said.

The EPI report cited employers' widespread shift away from pensions to 401(k) plans as a major reason for lost retirement security.

This week, a board charged with researching how a retirement plan could be implemented in Colorado is meeting to discuss new research and recommendations, which include establishing an automatic-enrollment Roth IRA that is portable in case workers change jobs.

Jaeckel said retirement plans in place in other states show that once people are enrolled, they tend to stay enrolled and build compounding equity over time. He said a plan that can be accessed by all Colorado workers will create an economy of scale absent when workers open savings plans currently available in the marketplace.

"By pooling the resources of many small employers and employees, we're really able to take advantage of a much larger plan," he said. "The cost of administering the program goes down quite dramatically."

The institute's report found families in their mid-30s have on average just $1,000 socked away for retirement, and families approaching retirement age in 2016 had just $21,000. Due primarily to lack of access to pensions and living-wage jobs, just 35% of Hispanic families and 41% of black families have retirement savings.

By contrast, 68% of white families have retirement accounts.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO