What to do when your state says you need a retirement plan

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We’re all too aware of the looming retirement crisis. Almost 25% of adults in the United States lack any retirement savings, according to the Federal Reserve. In response, a number of states have decided to enact legislation that require employees to participate in their state-sponsored retirement program.

What does this mean for business owners not currently offering a plan?

For businesses operating in a state where legislation has been proposed, it’s very likely that they will have to make some changes in the not-so-distant future. Some state plans come with penalties for not enrolling, while others offer appealing incentives for involvement. However, the real question may not be whether you want to offer a state-sponsored plan, but rather, whether a state-sponsored plan is the right option.

Most state-sponsored plans are designated as Roth IRAs, using investments chosen by the state, and are low-cost. However, there are also benefits to creating a customized plan that works for you and your employees. Issuing your own plan allows you to:

  • Select your own investments to include the right fund variety and offer user-friendly models like target-date funds;
  • Create your own plan design so you have more control over things like company matching and eligibility rules;
  • Derive significantly greater tax benefits because a 401(k) plan allows deductions of pre-tax earnings of up to $19,000 whereas an IRA only permits deductions of up to $6,000 in earnings;
  • Borrow against your plan in times of emergency; and
  • Keep costs equally low thanks to new entrants and advanced technology that eliminates overhead.

While state-sponsored plans are getting the conversation started, it’s important to look at the bigger picture strategy and determine the best short- and long-term decisions.

To better understand the urgency behind any retirement plan decision, it’s worth digging deeper into the specific requirements of your state. But regardless of what state you’re in, there are many perks to offering a company-sponsored retirement plan such as tax incentives, recruitment and retention benefits, and investing in your employee’s future. And thanks to new entrants and advanced technology, many traditional inefficiencies and excess fees have been eliminated, keeping costs down.

States are putting emphasis on the retirement crisis and stepping in to help. But at the end of the day, this is about setting your employees — and yourself — up for retirement security. Look at the current proposals in your jurisdiction, think about what you’re trying to accomplish, and determine what will offer the greatest value for you and your team. Everyone deserves retirement security.

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