The U.S. Treasury Department has launched the “myRA,” a new retirement account designed as a starter option for workers who don’t have a savings plan at work.
In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced that he would direct the Treasury Department to develop myRA for the roughly 55 million Americans without 401(k)s or other employer-sponsored savings plans. The department has been working with a small group of employers as part of the pilot phase of the program.
“We wanted to make sure it was simple and as user-friendly as possible,” a Treasury official said. “We learned it does work.”
The no-fee myRA will be available for those earning a single income below $131,000 a year or $193,000 for married couples. Savers can contribute as little as a few dollars to as much as $5,500 per year and, once they reach the maximum myRA balance of $15,000, they can transfer the funds to a private-sector Roth IRA.
MyRA funds go into a new Treasury savings bond that was created especially for the program. Had the myRA been in effect the past five years, the payout would have been roughly 2% annualized, according to Treasury officials.
“MyRA can give people confidence that they’re taking steps in the right direction, and it can serve as a bridge to other savings options that will carry them the rest of the way,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said. “MyRA alone will not solve the nation’s retirement savings gap, but it will be an important stepping stone for encouraging and creating a nation of savers.”
According to the Federal Reserve, 31% of non-retired people say they have no retirement savings or pension whatsoever.
MarketWatch, however, expressed skepticism about the MyRA program, noting, among other things, that there is no matching of a saver’s contribution.
“The problem is that [myRA] doesn’t address any of the reasons why so many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and don’t save,” MarketWatch said. “It doesn’t tackle the nation’s unresolved economic issues.”