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PNS Daily Newscast - September 23, 2020 


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First-of-Its-Kind Retirement Program in Oregon Turns 3

Some Oregonians have used OregonSaves as an emergency fund during the pandemic. (Minerva Studio/Adobe Stock)
Some Oregonians have used OregonSaves as an emergency fund during the pandemic. (Minerva Studio/Adobe Stock)
July 24, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. - A novel program to help Oregonians save for retirement is celebrating three years of operation.

OregonSaves is an alternative savings program for workers whose employers don't offer retirement plans. Part of the secret to its success is that employees must opt out of the program, which makes them more likely to stay in.

Edward Brewington is a member of the Oregon Retirement Savings Board. He says the state should be proud of this program.

"This program has helped raise an awareness on the part of many people of the imperative to have saving and investment," says Brewington. "Reliance on Social Security is inadequate. "

Oregon was the first state to create a program like this. About 77% of Oregonians who have access to the program still are enrolled, according to OregonSaves, and their assets add up to nearly $60 million.

Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read and organizations such as AARP Oregon and the Service Employees International Union were long-time supporters of the program before it kicked off in 2017.

Read says the program has had an unexpected benefit for some folks during the financial crunch from COVID-19 because the retirement plans are set up as Roth IRAs.

"The dollars that people are saving are available without penalty in the short term," says Read. "This is a retirement plan, but it's also useful as an emergency fund when there are times like these."

Saleem Noorani owns liquor stores in the Corvallis area and was an early adopter of OregonSaves. He says the program levels the playing field for small and mid-sized businesses.

"Before, small businesses like myself were hampered by the fact that we couldn't offer this as an option for our employees," says Noorani. "And so now we can, you know, thanks to the state."

More than half of states now have a program similar to OregonSaves or are working to create one.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR