Work & Save: It’s Time for an Innovative Solution

Today’s workforce looks drastically different than it did even a decade ago. A swift rise in alternative “gig economy” jobs (like Uber drivers, freelancers, and seasonal workers) means fewer workers have access to workplace retirement plans. In fact, half of American workers have no way to save for retirement out of their regular paycheck, and the private sector has failed to fill this gap over the last 40 years. But, we know people are 15 times more likely to save if they can do so at work.

Work & Save programs offer an innovative solution to these changing realities. This 529 style retirement program will allow more workers, like Millennials moving from job to job, to grow their savings and take control of their future. Work & Save provides an easy, low-cost plug-and-play option for businesses to offer employees a way to save for retirement out of their regular paychecks.

Work & Save accounts put hard-working Americans in control. The accounts are voluntary, so it’s up to the employee to decide if they want to participate and how much they want to put away automatically from their paycheck. And, the savings is the employee’s own money that they can take with them from job to job, and rely on to take care of themselves in later years.

Can We Afford Not to Change?
While Social Security is a critical piece of the puzzle, it is not enough to depend on. The average Social Security benefit for a 65+ family is only about $18,000 per year, even though older American families on average spend $20,000 a year on food, utilities, and health care alone. At this rate, one out of every two households won’t be able to afford their basic needs, and may need to rely on public assistance later in life.

But, Work & Save can change that! Giving employees an easy way to grow their savings means fewer Americans will need to rely on public assistance later in life, which will save taxpayer dollars. In fact, states taking action today could save taxpayers as much as $33 billion over the next 10 years.

States Leading the Way
This week, I’m joining nearly 1,500 legislators and staff in Los Angeles at the annual National Conference of State Legislatures to share more about the many benefits of Work and Save, since states have been leading the way in addressing this critical issue. It’s sure to be an exciting time as I’ll be joined by Jean Chatzky, AARP’s personal finance ambassador.


LA is a great place to have this conversation since California is working hard to become the fourth state to launch their Work & Save program, CalSavers, in early 2019.

Oregon was the first-in-the-nation to launch this innovative solution with OregonSaves in 2017, and as of July 2018 they already have over 58,000 workers enrolled and nearly $4.6 million saved. Of those eligible at this time, 73% have enrolled, and participants are saving $46.42 per paycheck on average. Check out how OregonSaves is helping workers save here.

Elsewhere, this year, Washington opened the first ever marketplace version of Work & Save, Washington’s Retirement Marketplace, and Illinois started a pilot of their Work & Save program, Illinois Secure Choice, with their official launch coming this fall.

These states are not alone – across the nation, states are recognizing the need to help all workers grow savings so they can take control of their futures and deal with the rising cost of health care and living expenses. In the past 6 years, 40 states have acted to implement, study or consider legislation to create Work & Save programs.

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Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.