As many as 56 million private sector workers in the U.S. lack access to a retirement savings plan through their jobs. The subsequent lack of retirement savings could cost federal and state governments hundreds of billions of dollars by 2040. Joining the podcast is John Scott, the director of the Retirement Savings Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Scott explained the scope of the retirement savings problem, the difference between public and private employers, and the most promising approaches to help more people save for retirement. Also on the show are two lawmakers involved in sponsoring legislation for state-facilitated savings plans. Senator Dallas Harris, a Democrat from Nevada, and Representative Michael O'Donnell, a Republican from Missouri, talked about the legislation they've introduced, how they've worked with employers in their states and the key challenges they faced in passing their legislation.
As many as 56 million private sector workers in the U.S. lack access to a retirement savings plan through their jobs. The subsequent lack of retirement savings could cost federal and state governments hundreds of billions of dollars by 2040.
Joining the podcast is John Scott, the director of the Retirement Savings Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Scott explained the scope of the retirement savings problem, the difference between public and private employers, and the most promising approaches to help more people save for retirement.
Also on the show are two lawmakers involved in sponsoring legislation for state-facilitated savings plans. Senator Dallas Harris, a Democrat from Nevada, and Representative Michael O'Donnell, a Republican from Missouri, talked about the legislation they've introduced, how they've worked with employers in their states and the key challenges they faced in passing their legislation.
Ed: Hello and welcome to “Our American States,” a podcast from the National Conference of State Legislatures. This podcast is all about legislatures, the people in them, the policies, process, and politics that shape them. I’m your host Ed Smith.
JS: Approximately overall 47% of Americans lack the access to a retirement plan. That translates to about 57 million.
Ed: That was John Scott, the director of the Retirement Savings Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Scott is one of my guests on this podcast which focuses on efforts to create state facilitated retirement accounts. As many as 56 million private sector workers lack access to a retirement savings plan through their jobs in the U.S. according to Pew’s research. Analysts who conducted the research estimated limited retirement savings could cost federal and state governments hundreds of billions of dollars by 2040. Scott talked about the scope of the retirement savings problem, the difference between public and private employers and the most promising approaches to help more people save for retirement. Automated savings programs to help people save have already been enacted in 11 states and lawmakers have introduced measures in other states.
My other two guests have been involved in those efforts. Senator Dallas Harris, a Democrat from Nevada, and Representative Michael O’Donnell, a Republican from Missouri, talked about the legislation they’ve introduced, how they’ve worked with employers in their states and the key challenges they faced in passing their legislation.
Here is our discussion starting with John Scott. John, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for coming on.
JS: Ed, thanks for having me.
Ed: Well John we are going to talk today about being ready for retirement at least from a financial perspective. As someone who is semi-retired, I’m not sure any of us are really prepared for retirement, but if there’s one place you want to start, I think it’s probably with your financial situation. So, let’s talk about what you and other experts in this area mean when you talk about retirement readiness and the various financial resources whether it’s social security or savings, pensions that are involved in that preparation. So, give us the overview on that.
JS: Sure. I think it’s a great place to start. So, different people whether that’s a worker, a small business owner, a state legislator will have different views on what retirement readiness means. For me and I think for a lot of folks who work in the policy space, it’s really about maintaining a standard of living in retirement. We have a standard of living while we are working. Our income goes to our housing and healthcare and enjoying life. Ideally, we would like to maintain that level of standard of living throughout our older years. Obviously, there are some changes when we retire. Some are sort of good. We don’t have a lot of workplace expenses like commuting, but the data also shows that our healthcare expenses also go up as we get older. And also, we have those sort of shocks in life those unexpected events that may be there’s the roof needs to be repaired or some healthcare expense crops up that we didn’t expect. So, and a part of retirement readiness is both planning ahead for that standard of living that we are familiar with, but it's also planning ahead for those inevitable shocks that occur. But also add something that people don’t think about in terms of retirement readiness is that the idea of longevity. You know we are living longer ah and that’s been true you know over the past few decades our lifespan has been increasing. It’s stepped back a little bit in the past few years, but I think we can expect it to go forward and so there’s also the risk of outliving your assets that we can live into very old age and that’s a very real possibility. So, thinking about all of that and combining all those resources you mentioned like social security, our own savings, workplace retirement plans. I would also include health insurance. Long term care insurance. All of these things that help us maintain that standard of living all feeds into that idea of retirement readiness.
Ed: My mother-in-law who passed away last year lived to be 101 and I don’t think that she ever anticipated that she would live that long. So, I think that’s an excellent point to make. We know what it takes to be ready for retirement. We need an assortment of resources both for standard of living as well as the unexpected. But let’s talk about the flipside which is from what I have read an awful lot of Americans are not ready for retirement from a financial point of view. Millions of people according to the census bureau aren’t ready. And a considerable number of people I guess have no retirement savings at all which is kind of breathtaking. So why are we in this situation?What are some of the big factors that have left so many people unprepared?
JS: Well, you are right. I mean the savings level in this country is pretty low. I think the Federal Reserve estimated that 1 in 4 non-retired Americans do not have any zero-retirement savings. Vanguard has reported that just amongst its own client database, which is a few million people, the median amount saved is $35,000 in their retirement plans which is you think about 50% of their investors have less than $35,000 in retirement savings. That’s not much to live on if you are going to live for another you know 15 or 20 years. We have that low level of savings and the big driver of that is the lack of access to a workplace retirement plan. And that’s not to ah you know we do have an employment-based system of providing retirement benefits and I certainly want to make clear this is not throwing businesses under the bus. Many employers that we’ve talked to in our own research they want to do the right thing. They want to offer retirement benefits. Not just as a tool to attract and retain talent, but and this is a direct quote because it’s the right thing to do. They really want to see their employees do well, but many employers, especially small businesses, can’t afford retirement plans. And also, small business owners wear a number of different hats. So, they don’t really always have the bandwidth to operate a retirement plan. So that lack of access I think is the real driver here and the fact that many employers find it difficult to offer retirement benefits ah is a key factor.
Ed: Let me ask you and this might be a little off the overall theme, but I think I’ll probably be asking this question for the next couple of years. Did the pandemic affect this situation? It seems to have affected everything else in the world. And I wonder if that was a factor here for some people.
JS: I think it has. I think you alluded to it. I think we are still going to be learning a lot about what the pandemic did to many aspects of our lives going forward, but it’s undeniable that the pandemic had a huge effect on jobs, on the movement of people from job to job or out of certain jobs. Many small businesses were particularly hit hard, and we know that that lack of access to a retirement is especially true for small businesses. So, I think the pandemic had a big effect. I don’t think the data has caught up in terms of measuring what that effect is, but I think it’s going to be very clear soon.
Ed: Yeah, I think that’s probably true in so many areas that the data will tell us a story a few years down the road that we just don’t have any sharp focus yet. Talk a little bit about the retirement savings options that are available for private sector workers versus public sector workers. How is that different?
JS: It’s a great question. And you know we have been talking about employees generally and I tend to focus on private sector workers because that’s where the real need is. Public sectors worker you know generally have access to a retirement plan whether at the local or the state level or federal level of course. Many do save. Many participate. Many have their employer contribute to their retirement plans. Some even have a traditional pension you know which promises them promises a certain benefit in the future as opposed to having to save for your retirement by yourself. But even that is changing in the public sector. It’s becoming a little bit more like the private sector where the dominant savings or the dominant retirement plan is saving out of your paycheck. Public sector workers are increasingly saving out of their paychecks for their retirement. But I would say generally they have more access to a retirement plan in the public sector than in the private sector.
Ed: Well yeah, I think I am one of the dinosaurs. I still have a little bit of a pension from working in the newspaper business and I think that that has pretty much disappeared entirely in that industry, and I know in many others as well. So, let’s talk about the private sector or as you said this is really where the need is. What are the retirement savings options there and to what degree do people take advantage of those programs when they do have them available?
JS: I think there are two pathways. I mentioned before that we have an employer or employment-based system where it’s really up to the employer to offer a retirement plan. There is no requirement that employers offer a retirement plan in this country so there are a variety of different kinds of retirement options that employers can offer. The most well-known of course is the 401k plan that many people are familiar with where people save out of their paycheck and there might be a matching contribution. But there are other types including there’s still a tiny fraction of those in the private sector as you said that have a traditional pension. But there are also opportunities for individual savers as well. There is the individual retirement account where you open up an IRA at a bank or an investment firm like Vanguard. IRA’s actually today hold the most assets out of all the different types of retirement plans. They hold over 13 trillion with a T in assets. But those are mostly transfers from employer sponsored plans so when I retire, I’ll probably transfer all of my savings over to an IRA. The real issue though is that only 13% of Americans save for retirement outside of the workplace and there’s a good reason for that. When an employer does not offer a retirement plan, it’s up to the individual employee to recognize that they have to save for retirement. They have to identify the retirement savings vehicle like an IRA. They have to select the provider. I mean there are many providers. You know banks and mutual fund companies and investment companies that provide these as well as select the investments.
And then they have to consistently fund that account so in my own retirement plan at Pew a certain percentage comes out of my paycheck every pay period. I don’t have to think about it, worry about it. It’s just done, but in the individual context they actually have to do something every time and that makes it difficult for people to save on their own.
Ed: That’s a significant barrier I’m sure for a lot of folks. I also was in work situations where it was just taken out of my paycheck, and I didn’t have to think about it and frankly I think that’s a good thing. I’m not sure I would have been as diligent as I would have needed to be if it had all been on me. I’m just wondering even within the private sector, are there disparities in terms of access to retirement that some people have them easily and some don’t and does that breakdown along jobs or sectors of the economy?
JS: Yes. I mean I think there are a number of disparities. I think approximately overall 47% of Americans lack access to a retirement plan. That translates to about 57 million.
Ed: I’m sorry. Did you say 47%?
JS: Yes 47% of working Americans lack access to a retirement plan at their job and that’s.
Ed: I’m astonished by that.
JS: It is astonishing. But if you are Hispanic, that number jumps to 64%. For blacks, it’s 53% and women it’s 49% lack access to a retirement plan. And so those are sort of the groups in society that traditionally have been underserved. But when we think about businesses, I think I mentioned small businesses typically don’t have retirement plans. It’s at 78% of firms with 10 or fewer employees don’t provide retirement benefits. And then in terms of industries, the hospitality sector, the construction sector, the retail sector traditionally do not offer retirement benefits to their workers. So, it cuts across demographic lines. It cuts across sectors of the economy.
Ed: Well, I think that would be a surprise to a lot of people the level of people that do not have access, so I think that’s if we share with nothing else today, I think that piece of information is awfully important. And our audience of course is legislators and legislative staff and all those involved in policymaking at the stat level, and I know in recent years we’ve seen some increased focus on retirement readiness at the state and federal level. And some states have passed legislation implementing states facilitated retirement plans for private sector workers and some others are considering or have already introduced legislation. And why do you think policymakers see this as such a pressing issue in the U.S. and why is it so important to address it now? I think you’ve answered some of that, but I’m wondering about the urgency that they feel at this point.
JS: I think probably different policymakers would have different answers of course. There is a little bit of variation in terms of the interest there. But certainly, they interact with constituents on a daily basis, and we do have an aging population. So according to research that we have, the elderly population in the U.S. is projected to increase by 50% from 54 million in 2020 to over 81 million by the year 2040 so I think that aging tsunami that’s hitting this country is certainly at the top of minds of many policymakers.
I mentioned small business. This is a competition issue and I think a lot of policymakers are concerned about that. Small businesses are competing with bigger firms that have a robust suite of pay and benefits. And for many rural legislators who have small towns where the younger people are leaving to go get jobs with better pay and better benefits, I think that’s a concern. And then finally we’ve released research that shows that the fiscal cost of people who don’t save enough for retirement that if you have insufficient savings, you are much more likely to take advantage of Medicaid and other programs that help the elderly poor. That cumulative cost across the 50 states is $334 billion over 20 years. And that cost if going to be hitting a shrinking tax base over time too. So, I think there’s different ways to you know get the attention of a policymaker, I think all of those are relevant.
Ed: That ought to get their attention. Yeah, I think those numbers are pretty persuasive from an attention getting point of view. So, given that, what do you see? You folks have done a lot of research on this. What are the most promising policy solutions that could help solve this problem or at least close this retirement savings gap that you are seeing out there?
JS: Well, I think there is some good news in the sense that there is a lot of interest. We’ve seen a lot of legislation with some different proposals around the country. I think it is fantastic that state legislators have taken an interest in this issue and it’s really you know cuts across geography and party lines. In terms of how do we address this issue of getting access to retirement savings opportunities that’s payroll based, people would save on a regular basis and some sort of automatic. We have gone behind a particular solution that we call automated retirement savings programs. They go by other names depending on what state like Secure Choice or Work and Save. Fourteen states have passed legislation to create these automated savings programs. There are 7 in operation today. Oregon State was the first one to start enrolling savers back in 2017 to relatively new. Only a few years old. And the way it works is that if you Ed if you don’t have a retirement plan at your job, you would be automatically enrolled into the savings program that’s run by your state. You have the option to opt out at any time. You could change your contributions, your investments at any time, but the idea is to get you into the program. This is particularly important for younger workers who maybe hold off saving initially, but even a small amount early helps a great deal.
How we get to scale in terms of getting as many people in the system as possible all employers who don’t offer retirement benefits are required to provide or offer this program to their workers. But that’s really all that employers have to do. They just have to facilitate the payroll contributions much like they facilitate payroll on a regular basis. And how is it working. So, we have data from 4 states today. Over 700,000 people are saving. Over 800 million in assets have accumulated. We would expect to pass the 1 billion mark this year. Two thirds of the people who have been automatically enrolled stick with the program. But about 30% do opt out so if you don’t feel it’s right for you, you can do that. And people are making that choice. We have found through our own survey research at Pew that businesses that participate in the program really appreciate this being able to offer retirement benefits when they can’t offer a plan of their own. And they can certainly offer a 401k plan at any time if they want. We’ve also asked employees and they’ve said they feel more financially secure because they are participating in this program. They are building up a nest egg that for the long term, but if they have a financial shock, they have some assets available. And finally, it works with the private market that this is not a government program that competes with the Vanguard and Fidelity’s and other financial services firms. It actually complements it in the sense that it is encouraging employers to say you know what. That’s a great state program but I’m going to adopt my own retirement plan and they go off and adopt a 401k. So, we feel like this is a good solution that checks all the boxes.
Ed: Well John thanks so much for taking the time to come on and talk about this. We are going to have a couple of legislators here next in the podcast to talk about what they are doing in their states, but I think that the background you have given us is going to give us a little bit better understanding of the situation as we listen to that conversation. Thanks so much.
JS: Thank you.
Ed: I’ll be right back after this short break with Senator Dallas Harris and Representative Michael O’Donnell.
(TM): 18:31 (advertisement/music)
Ed: Senator Harris Representative O’Donnell thanks for coming on the podcast.
DH: Thanks for having me.
MO: My pleasure. Glad to be here.
Ed: So earlier in this podcast, I spoke with John Scott about the scope and urgency of the retirement crisis in the U.S. and frankly as I said before we got online, I was pretty surprised at some of the numbers that he had. It’s more significant than I was aware of. So now we want to get down to how states are approaching this issue and I wonder if each of you might be able to talk about the retirement situation in your states and how it might be different from what it looks like at the national level. Senator Harris why don’t you start with that.
DH: Sure. So, I think one of the most astonishing statistics here in Nevada is that approximately 45 to 50% of Nevadans do not have an opportunity to save through their employer. And human nature has taught us that if you can’t get it right out of your paycheck, you are much less likely to save significantly less likely to save. And we know those days of working a job for 30 years and counting on a pension are behind us. And so, I felt it was imperative that here in Nevada we ensure that everybody has an option to at least get that money taken right out of their paycheck so that they don’t see it and they don’t miss it. And so that they can be set up for what’s likely to be an expensive retirement especially when it comes to healthcare costs, increased costs of living or any of the other plethora of issues that you might see in your old age.
Ed: So Representative O’Donnell what does the situation look like there in Missouri?
MO: So according to AARP over 900,000 Missourians don’t have access to retirement savings through their employer. It’s an expensive endeavor especially for smaller employers. You mentioned John Scott from Pew. I’m grateful to John for his help in regards to our legislation in Missouri. Their work on estimating the fiscal impact to Missouri. All of those folks who are unprepared for retirement. Potentially creating $3 billion in fiscal impact in Missouri over the life expectancy in retirement over a 20-year period. And I think that was a big selling point. A lot of folks didn’t see the need for this in Missouri. They felt that this was a private sector function. But once they suddenly saw that it could cost the state upwards of 3 billion dollars people started to think hum what can we do to fix this problem.
Ed: Let me ask you about the more than 30 million small businesses in the country and I wonder how state-facilitated retirement plans might affect them including whether they might push back on it for exactly the kinds of reasons I think you are just alluding to, and Representative O’Donnell let’s stick with you on that.
MO: That was the challenge in the very beginning. So, I first filed our legislation 3 years ago and nobody read it. Everybody just said okay here is what’s going on in other states. We got to stop it. Well in Missouri because we have probably Republicans super majorities and a Republican Governor there was no way we were going to get a business mandate in place. It just wasn’t. That bill wasn’t going to get a referral much less make it through the legislative process. And so, plenty of small business owners would like to be able to compete for the same employees as a large business, but offering retirement savings benefit is simply just cost prohibitive. And so that’s kind of what this that’s the service gap that my bill hopes to fill.
Ed: How about at the end of that is Senator Harris what’s the small business situation?
DH: Yeah, I mean I think Representative O’Donnell hit the nail on the head. The idea is that there are lots of small businesses who simply cannot afford to offer this benefit to their employees. And actually, I think we’ve seen in other states where this has been implemented that small businesses do in fact benefit because they are more competitive. Their employees do better and so their businesses do better. The great thing that I love about this program is that it’s free to businesses to participate. It’s free for the state to run right. It’s mostly funded on the fees of the people who participate, and this is a perfect solution to fill that gap that the Representative was just talking about.
Ed: Well Senator Harris let me stick with you for a minute. You are the main sponsor of SB305 which recently was introduced for the third time, and I wonder why you think this is the year you will be able to pass and is there anything different about the political climate there in Nevada that makes it more viable?
DH: Yeah, well you know they say the third time is a charm and I’m hoping that is particularly true here. Nevada is a state where you are gonna have to bring ideas again and again and again and it’s my opinion that sometimes the best things are the hardest to do right. And so, I know that we are on the right track. I’m got the Chamber of Commerce to come to the table and negotiate with us this time which is a big win. Although we do have a split government, we’ve got a Republican governor, but a Democratic legislature, I’m confident that our Republican governor will be able to see the benefits for Nevadans if he signs this legislation.
Ed: Well, it will be interesting to see how that works out. Representative O’Donnell you recently sponsored HB155 the show me my retirement administrative fund. Can you talk about that and how it differs from auto IRAs?
MO: Sure. So, the show me my retirement savings program is very different than the auto IRAs that we’ve seen implemented in various states. Because we had no path for the business mandate which you know the things, we are seeing in other states suggests that it is a good way to go. That its gotten great participation and people are sticking with it. People moving out of it after they are in it is not happening. I think California just passed half a billion dollars in assets under management which is really exciting. That’s a lot of money for folks and it should change their retirement. One of the things that I sought to do since we don’t have, we didn’t have the business mandate, I started looking at ways to get the best possible retirement outcomes and one of those ways was to structure it as a 401k which some studies show produces a better retiree success better retirement outcome. So, our program is a multiple employer program that will look very much like the successful 529 programs. The state of Missouri is not going to be managing people’s money. We are simply going to be setting up an RFP to get a Fidelity or a Vanguard or somebody like that to manage people’s individual accounts going forward.
Ed: Well, let me stick with you Representative O’Donnell you alluded to this before Senator Harris mentioned this. Getting together with employers. For the other legislators listening, I’m really interested in your process. How did you get them in the room? How did you kind of present your idea and try to get them to buy in to your vision of this?
MO: I love that Senator Harris keyed in on the Chamber of Commerce. They were my first pushback that I got and I’m guessing she probably got the same thing. And I was quite frankly, I was shocked by that because I saw the Chamber as somebody that was out there fighting for small businesses. And this is just good business to offer this to your employees. And so, I was quite shocked by that, but a lot of that pushback I was getting was from folks in the financial services industry that they saw this as competing with that space. And we were able to show that it didn’t. In fact, if anything on one of those calls, it was not a happy call, one of those calls I suggested to them that I would rename this program the financial advisor full employment act because we were setting folks up. These aren’t folks that these guys are fighting to serve. They are folks that are in a service gap, but in the end when these folks have spent 20 years at this employer, and they have saved $100,000 you better believe they are going to be knocking down their door to try to get that customer. And so that was some of the pushback that I gave that you know if they weren’t going to fill this gap, we were going to find a way to help these folks that weren’t getting the service.
Ed: I think it’s so interesting when I talk to legislators about this sort of thing that the amount of work that goes into this. The number of conversations and meetings and just really thinking through and making sure that you listen to people. Senator what was your experience working with the employers in your state?
DH: Yeah, I mean I think my experience was pretty similar to Representative O’Donnell’s. There were lots of conversations. Raised voices at times, but we all came to understand that we were really trying to serve Nevadans. The question was what the best way was to make that happen. I don’t think anyone was arguing that we didn’t need to encourage more people to save or to give them some valid option to do so. And so, once we were able to talk about what the really hard points were on the edges, we were able to come to a solution I think that worked for all parties.
Ed: We talked about this a little bit, but Senator let me stick with you. How about the financial services folks. The approach they’ve taken in Missouri you know that’s a pretty good argument. We are going to divert a whole bunch of money to members of your industry, but how about in Nevada? How did you structure yours and how did you interact with the financial services folks?
DH: Yeah, I’m actually taking some notes from Representative O’Donnell because I’m still getting quite a bit of pushback from the financial services industry here in Nevada. I think they do see that’s not something that competes with services that they provide. But as Representative O’Donnell noted, we are talking about a hole. These are folks who could currently be served but are not for one reason or another right. Whether it’s because they are working 37 ½ hours and aren’t considered full-time. Or they are independent contractors. Or they are an employee at a small business as we’ve discussed, and their employer can’t afford it. There are a certain class of folks who aren’t able to access what’s currently on the market. Otherwise, they would have already. And so, we are really trying to serve those people. And I’ve been driving that point home, but I’m gonna see if I can flip my argument a little bit and then convince them that we are shoveling some more customers their way.
Ed: And Representative O’Donnell that’s kind of the approach you have taken and then did everybody come around in the financial services side or did you get sort of some buy in and some not buy in?
DH: We did. We made some changes to the bill. And one of the things that we put in place, we put a maximum employee threshold at 50. That seemed to get some folks. That’s really the service gap that we are trying to fill is those smaller folks. But I’ve had some folks approach me because they are currently offering retirement savings to their employees, but it is so outrageously expensive. I had somebody tell me the story that they were excited because they had set up a retirement system for their I think it was 8 to 10 employees. In that first year, they saved a total of $8,000 combined, but it cost the company $12,000 to do that. And so, it’s gotten really expensive. The one thing I will say that is really encouraging, I spent a good deal of time speaking with Katie Selinski and she was the first Executive Director of the CalSavers Program. And one of the exciting things she shared with me was that in California you would think that with as much pushback as the financial services industry gave that they would have just abandoned ship after California stood up CalSavers, but what Katie said was they’ve sharpened their pencil. They’ve actually gotten more competitive. People see a problem they don’t immediately run to the government for a solution. They may see our Missouri program, but it may not be their first choice. They may look at it and say give me something. Give me something competitive in the private sector. And so that’s exciting to me to hear that news out of California after just 5 years of the CalSavers program being in place.
Ed: Well, you’ve just helped tee up my final question for you as we try to wrap this up.
MO: I’m here for you Ed.
Ed: You’ve got a pretty good-sized audience of legislators I hope listening to this and even though in laying out the problem we see how severe this is, there hasn’t been that much legislation from what I’ve seen. It looks like it’s a trend. It looks like it’s coming, but what are the pieces of advice? What advice would you share with your colleagues around the country. Senator, you want to take the first shot at that.
DH: I’d start with the most important piece of advice for me and that was try and try again. You may not get it done the first time, but this is a piece of policy that is worth doing. We can’t wait on social security to get its stuff together. We can’t wait on the federal government to come and save our residents. We’ve got to make sure that they are well suited for the retirement that is ahead. Otherwise, all of our state’s social programs are going to be in dire trouble in 30 or 40 years. And so, this is a problem that we can solve today. I’d also say talk, talk, talk. Talk to everybody. Talk to your state treasurer. Talk to your colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Talk to your Chambers of Commerce. Not just the traditional ones. If you have a Latin Chamber of Commerce or an Urban Chamber of Commerce speak to them as well. Talk to as many people as you can. Get the stakeholders in the room early and you will have a chance to iron this out and get something done.
Lastly, I’d say don’t be afraid to compromise. Legislators should know at this point right there is no perfect piece of legislation and so be willing to find ways to bring people onboard. The one thing I refused to compromise on was the opt in versus the opt out. If you do an opt in program for the auto IRA at least it collapses under its own weight and so ahm I just wanted to give that one caveat when it comes to being willing to compromise. Don’t make the legislation fail. Other than that, you follow that, and you can get it done.
Ed: And Representative O’Donnell how about for you and it sounds like part of your suggestion might be also look at the private sector options in your state. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a public policy. Maybe it’s a public/private kind of thing.
MO: Yeah absolutely. Like most legislators, I came here to fix problems. For me, I didn’t realize this was a problem. So, you know as a legislator, I would suggest to other legislators hey this is a problem. You should look at your know what’s going on in your state and how big of a problem is this. You know Pew and then I would also say that Georgetown Center for Retirement Initiatives Angela Antonelli they can share a lot of information if you are looking at putting legislation like this forth and really show you that there is a lot of problems out there.
Lastly, I would you know I mentioned earlier the 900,000 Missourians don’t have access to retirement savings through their employer. While this my legislation that we’ve passed, it’s not going to save all 900,000 of those folks. But if just a quarter of those folks that are unserved in this area get retirement, that’s almost a quarter of a million Missourians who their retirement trajectory has been completely changed by this program. And if that’s all I do in my tenure in the Missouri House of Representatives, I will feel like that all of my hard work will have been well spent. That’s a meaningful impact. So, I encourage any legislator to look at what’s possible in your state and then and push forward.
Ed: Well, thank you both. This is such an interesting topic, and this is a great conversation. I think very informative for your colleagues, and I thank you both. Take care.
Ed: I’ve been talking with John Scott at Pew along with Senator Dallas Harris and Representative Michael O’Donnell about state efforts to help more people save for retirement. Thanks for listening.
You can check out all the podcasts from the National Conference of State Legislatures by searching for NCSL podcasts wherever you get your podcasts. Tim Storey, NCSL’s CEO, hosts “Legislatures: The Inside Storey” where he focuses on leadership and legislatures. The “Our American States” podcast dives into some of the most challenging public policy issues facing legislators. On “Across the Aisle” host Kelley Griffin tells stories of bipartisanship. Also check out our special series “Building Democracy” on the history of legislatures.