Zero. That’s how much money more than 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 24 and 30 are saving for retirement, according to a recent survey. 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, retirement could be a thing of the past. We could find ourselves working without an end point or dependent on the federal government, which might not be able to provide. That’s why it’s so important for New York State to develop a retirement plan for employees of private companies.
Last winter, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo created a commission, originally to be headed by former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, to look into such a plan. McCall resigned because of other responsibilities, and in came Mary Beth Labate, who previously headed the state’s budget division. The commission finally began its work this fall, eight months after Cuomo’s announcement. The federal government did its part with a rule change that makes it easier for states to run private retirement plans.
The commission hopes to have a proposal for Cuomo by year’s end. Cuomo and state lawmakers should prioritize this next year. Their plan should include automatic enrollment for employees whose companies don’t offer retirement plans, with a clear opt-out provision. There should be an exemption for the smallest businesses because of the paperwork involved, and business owners’ worries about any extra effort will have to be addressed. Questions will have to be answered about liability and who’s responsible for managing and overseeing plans. Employees would need to understand the risks and rewards. But while it’s complex, and there’s work to do, 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. — The editorial board