Main Street Leaders meet with State Officials to talk about Retirement Security

Last week, members of The Main Street Alliance of Oregon met with Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler in Salem and again with the Treasurer and Representative Margaret Doherty in Tigard to talk about the state of small business in Oregon.
Business owners from the communities voiced there concerns about the looming retirement security crisis. Today, nearly half of all Oregonians do not have a retirement plan at work. As a result, many are at risk of living in poverty when they retire – unable to cover basic living and medical expenses. This not only means that more Americans will need to rely on social services, but also that those with little or no retirement savings won’t have the resources to keep shopping in their local small businesses.
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon is a part of the Save Today, Secure Tomorrow coalition, together we’ve found that:
  • More than 70 million American workers do not have an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
  • 79% of working Oregonians support a state-run retirement savings plan to help the thousands of workers who don’t have access to a retirement savings program at work.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statics estimates that at least 10 percent of Americans age 75 or older will be working or seeking employment by 2018.
  • Less than half of African American, Latino and low-income workers have access to a retirement plan at their job.
  • Over half of women age 75 or older live alone; almost half of those are living at or near the federal poverty line.
In 2013, The Main Street Alliance of Oregon worked with our allies to pass a bill to create a Task Force to study a pooled retirement option for working Oregonians. Treasurer Wheeler chaired the Task Force, which had representative from diverse communities. Main Street Alliance of Oregon Co-chair, Jim Houser, was the small business representative.
In September 2014, the Task Force unanimously recommended a structure for a state-sponsored retirement plan. After reviewing extensive research of best practices from academic and financial industry experts, the Task Force recommended that Oregon’s savings program include the following key elements:
  • Easy for employers to implement - savings contributions will be automatically deducted from existing payroll and employers will not be required to make a contribution
  • Includes auto-enrollment – 87 percent of individuals working for companies with auto-enrollment actively participate in the programs
  • Portable for individuals – the plan will follow Oregonians from job to job throughout their career.
  • Limits the state’s exposure to risk – as directed by the legislature, the plan will not incur any liability for the state.
The next step is to create a board with the authority to implement and manage a retirement savings program.
By giving every working Oregonian an easy way to save for retirement, we can help every Oregonian provide security for themselves, their families, and our community. It’s time to put Oregonians back in charge of their financial future.
It is critical that we find solutions to this problem—when more Americans are financially stable in their retirement, they keep spending money in local businesses, keeping money circulating through our communities. Additionally, when more families are secure in their own retirement, there’s less need for social safety nets, ensuring that those who really need the support have it to count on.