Saving for the future just got easier for Washingtonians

By Cathy MacCaul

A new retirement savings initiative has launched in Washington. The Retirement Marketplace officially opened the nation’s first online savings portal in March, where businesses and individuals can comparison shop for low-cost, state-verified retirement savings plans. The Retirement Marketplace was created to help about 2 million Washingtonians who do not have access to retirement savings plans through their workplace.

We know a secure retirement is out of reach for millions of Americans, especially those who work for themselves or for small businesses. The Retirement Marketplace is easy to navigate and offers unique shopping pathways for businesses and individuals – including self-employed, part-time and temporary “gig” workers and people with traditional jobs. Studies show that workers with access to a retirement savings plan through work are 15 times more likely to save.

More than 131,000 Washington businesses do not offer a savings vehicle for employees. Small businesses know the value of offering strong benefits, but many have been unable to provide retirement plans to their employees due to high costs and administrative burdens. With the new marketplace, small businesses can compete with benefit packages provided by larger employers, enabling them to hire and keep valued employees.

“The Retirement Marketplace, managed by the Washington Department of Commerce, offers an efficient and no-cost way for employers to offer a retirement savings benefit to their employees. It’s easy to select a plan and employees can carry their savings from job to job, even if they move out of the state,” said Doug Shadel, AARP Washington state director.

Plan portability is a boon, particularly for younger workers. Retirement plans can travel with a worker as he or she moves from one job to the next — even if their new job takes them out of state — providing the employee a level of financial security that wasn’t available in the past.

Approved by the state Legislature in 2015, AARP Washington advocated strongly for this legislation as part of an AARP national initiative called “Work and Save,” which helps all workers grow retirement savings so they can be less reliant on public assistance in the future and live with purpose and dignity as they age. While it is best to start early when it comes to saving for retirement years, it is never too late to start.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, about 31 percent of workers and 29 percent of retirees have less than $25,000 in savings and investments. The marketplace can help older workers play catch up prior to retirement. If a 55-year-old started saving now, they could add thousands of dollars to their retirement accounts in just 10 years. This savings cushion can help retirees delay claiming Social Security benefits until full retirement age.

What sets Washington’s savings initiative apart from other state-monitored plans? While the Retirement Marketplace is targeted to small business owners, sole proprietors can set up an automatic savings contribution to a state-verified 401(k), IRA or Roth IRA plan. This is a great advantage for 61 percent of Washington workers who currently have to navigate a complex financial marketplace to save for the future. A daunting task considering many say day-to-day life gets in the way of saving for retirement.

In addition to helping businesses and individuals, providing employees with a simple way to save for retirement means fewer Americans will need to rely on public assistance later in life, which will save taxpayer dollars.

Each plan listed on the Retirement Marketplace meets strict criteria established by the state Legislature:

  • Must first be reviewed by officials at the Department of Financial Institutions and/or the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
  • While employers do not pay fees, enrollees will never pay more than 1 percent in total annual administrative fees.
  • Must go through an annual renewal process to ensure the plan and provider remain in good standing.

The site launched with five types of 401(k) plans offered by Saturna Trust Co., with no administrative fees charged to Washington employers who access the plans through the marketplace. The site also offers Roth and Traditional IRAs from Finhabits.

To learn more about the Retirement Marketplace and find no- and low-cost plans, visit retirementmarketplace.com.

Cathy MacCaul is the advocacy director for AARP Washington. 

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