Zero. That’s how much money more than 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 24 and 30 are saving for retirement. New Yorkers too often don’t have access to a private pension plan or 401(k), and don’t bother to start individual retirement accounts.
If we don’t start thinking ahead, a nice retirement could be just a pipe dream. We could find ourselves working without an end point in sight or dependent on the federal government, which might not be able to provide.
That’s why it’s important for New York State to develop a retirement plan for employees of private firms. A commission appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to look into such a plan finally began work this fall. The federal government opened the door to this idea by making it easier for states to run private retirement plans. A similar change for large cities is in the works.
That would be helpful, as NYC has also proposed its own city-run retirement plan. City officials should move forward with their own proposal, but a statewide plan that could cover everyone would make more sense.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is part of the state commission, could help to connect the city and state efforts. The commission hopes to have a proposal for Cuomo by year’s end, but that’s only a few weeks away, and little is known about its progress.
Their plan should include automatic enrollment for employees whose companies don’t offer retirement plans, while making it clear how to opt out if a person doesn’t want it. There should be an exemption for the smallest businesses, because of the paperwork involved, and other business owners’ worries should be addressed.
Questions will have to be answered about liability and who will manage and oversee the plans. Employees would need to understand the risks and rewards.
This is a chance for Albany lawmakers to help fill a critical hole in the finances of New Yorkers whose retirement savings need to rise above zero. Cuomo and state lawmakers should make retirement savings for New Yorkers a priority in 2017.