Last month, President Obama inaugurated yet another way to encourage Americans to save for retirement. In the new myRA accounts, workers can save up to $15,000 in a low-fee investment plan that, like a government savings bond, guarantees the principal. The accounts are a small step toward helping households save, but they are not an effective solution to the coming retirement crisis.
Starting in 2020, the numbers of very low-income elderly will rise sharply as the retired population soars to almost 56 million. More middle-class working Americans will be poor or near poor after they reach the age of 65. Most currently have inadequate 401(k)-type accounts or no retirement account at all. For good reason, voters tell pollsters that their top economic concern is retirement security.
We need a bolder plan, which we are calling the guaranteed retirement account (G.R.A.). Under our proposal, all workers and employers will have to make regular payments into a G.R.A., which builds until retirement age, then pays out a supplemental stream of income until that person and his or her beneficiary die.