Aging Well: Savings program can help prepare for retirement
Think about your retirement years. What do you want to do? Travel? Fishing? Golf?
Your future plans depend on the choices you make now, while you're working. In this Aging Well, we look at ways to put more green in your golden years.
Ninteen-year-old Lexus Sagisi works at Burgers and Things in Pauoa. While she brings home the bacon, she also tries to include a side of savings.
Sagisi says, "I've tried really hard to discipline myself with saving money. As a teenager you want to just go out and buy stuff."
Sagisi admits she learned what not to do from her mother. "I don't want to end up in her situation."
Restaurant owner Liz Hata-Watanabe says she'd love to offer her nine staffers a retirement plan. "It helps us retain good workers. And think about it: I have a retirement-aged husband. I see the importance of retirement savings."
As a woman, she's even more invested in the idea. "We're already statistically paid less than men. We're well over 50% more likely to be impoverished in our old age."
It's just been too expensive to offer. "With the overhead we already have, it's very difficult to add another expense."
That's where the Legislature comes in. A bill that died in the 2018 session would have let the state study a Hawaii Retirement Savings Program, the first step in offering a public-private retirement plan, in the future.
It's something that could have a huge impact in the state. According to AARP, there are an estimated 216,000 private-sector workers in Hawaii.
AARP Communications Director Craig Gima says, "Social Security alone is not a retirement plan. Working until you can't anymore is not a retirement plan. It's important for people to save so they can choose the retirement they want."
"Many companies just don't market plans that small businesses can afford. That's the reason for this bill. Studies show people are 15 times more likely to save, if they can do it through payroll deduction – before they get a chance to spend the money. In addition, if low-income workers are able to save enough money to generate $1,000 in additional income at retirement, the state would save $32.7 million over the first 15 years of the program in reduced social services costs. State and federal savings in Hawaii would be $160 million," adds Gima.
Senate Bill 2333, introduced by state Sen. Laura Thielan (D-25), would have set up the basics of a board to administer a retirement program and fund a feasibility study to make recommendations to the Legislature on the best program for Hawaii.
The Hawaii Saves model is based on Oregon's program, OregonSaves. Started in 2017, it has already let 10,000 workers save $2.3 million as of April 2018.
The OregonSaves program is offered at no cost to businesses. They sign up, and workers can opt to save through payroll deduction.
"It's a public-private partnership similar to the 529 college savings plans that states, including Hawaii, offer. The state would select a private financial services company to offer and manage the funds. The funds would be held by the private financial services company in accounts owned by the employee – not the business or the state. The accounts would follow the employee if he or she changes jobs," explains Gima.
California, Illinois, New York and half a dozen other states set up a retirement savings program. Gima promises AARP will spearhead another push to get a proposal into the 2019 legislative session.