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The following editorial appeared recently in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
More Americans are confident they have enough money saved for retirement, but too many still can't afford to feel that way.
A survey released this week by the Employee Benefit Research Institute said that 55 percent of workers are somewhat confident or very confident that they've saved enough for a comfortable retirement. Yet 36 percent of the respondents said they have less than $1,000 set aside.
To help workers save more, President Barack Obama is directing the Treasury Department to develop starter savings accounts that are similar to Roth IRAs or Individual Retirement Accounts. The so-called MyRAs deserve a fair trial.
The accounts are intended for low-wage earners whose employers do not offer 401(k) plans and who may not be able to afford the minimum amounts required to open standard retirement accounts. Since the president proposed MyRA accounts in his State of the Union message in January, critics have attacked the plan, saying the accounts' projected growth rate is too low, that they do not offer access to the stock market, do not include an employer match and merely represent a new way for the government to borrow money.
But for Americans with modest incomes and no access to other savings plans at work, MyRA accounts can enforce the value of delayed gratification, which is at the heart of every successful savings effort. And they will offer a comparatively painless way to do that. Under Obama's proposal, MyRA accounts can be opened for as little as $25; employees can sign up for automatic payroll deductions of as little as $5 per payday. MyRA contributions will be taxed up front, so they can be withdrawn at any time, a Treasury spokesman said.
The Treasury will back MyRA accounts. Their balance is guaranteed never to go down, unlike retirement accounts linked to the stock market. They will earn interest at the same variable rate that federal employees get from their savings plan.
The MyRA idea is a safe and reliable way for many Americans to start saving.