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16 States With Their Own Retirement Savings Programs

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Related: 10 Best & Worst States for Retirement Plan Access

According to Georgetown University’s Center for Retirement Initiatives at the McCourt School of Public Policy, 16 states have enacted state-facilitated retirement savings programs for private-sector workers. 

The report notes that six states’ programs (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington) were open to all eligible employers as of June 30.

Massachusetts and Oregon opened their programs in late 2017, Washington opened its retirement marketplace in March 2018, Illinois launched its program in November 2018, California launched its program in July 2019, and Connecticut opened its programs to all eligible employers on April 1, 2022. Maryland opened its program to selected pilot employers in June with a goal to launch its program by September.

Other states, such as Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Virginia, are making progress but are in a variety of implementation planning stages.

Employers in all program states retain the option of acquiring a qualified retirement plan through the private market, and employees can always choose to opt out of program participation or change their contribution rates.

CRI groups the programs into four models:

  • Individual retirement account (auto-IRA).
  • Voluntary open multiple employer plan (MEP).
  • Voluntary payroll deduction IRA.
  • Voluntary marketplace.

Auto-IRA programs require employers that do not otherwise offer a retirement plan to allow their workers to be automatically enrolled in the state-facilitated retirement savings program. Payroll deduction IRAs are auto-IRAs but differ in two important ways: (1) Employer participation in the program is voluntary, and if participation for employers is voluntary and not required by the states, then (2) there is legal uncertainty on to what extent it can use auto-enrollment.

A state-facilitated “open” MEP is a type of 401(k) group plan on which otherwise-unrelated employers in the state can join together as part of the state-facilitated plan, as defined by the  Labor Department. Finally, a marketplace program is an “electronic clearinghouse” facilitated by a state that reviews and approves qualified financial services firms to offer their low-cost retirement savings products to small businesses, as well as sole proprietors and self-employed people.

The slideshow data is from the Georgetown Center for Retirement Initiatives.

Ed McCarthy is a freelance financial writer who holds the certified financial planner and retirement income certified professional designations.