Designing California's Secure Choice Savings Program

Policy Considerations for Building an Automatic and State-Based Savings Platform

policy paper | November 25, 2013

Increasing access to retirement savings plans and creating incentives for low- and moderate-income workers to participate is a cornerstone of a policy agenda that democratizes asset building opportunities. Previously, we have authored a series of policy papers, issue briefs, and published testimony about automatic IRAs, universal 401(k)s, and the role of the tax code in creating inequitable subsidies for retirement savings. Earlier this year, we published an issue brief about the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program, an innovative new initiative that would create retirement accounts for up to 6.3 million private sector workers throughout the state who currently lack access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This program has the potential to set an important precedent for similar state initiatives throughout the country.

In September 2013, the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board put out a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input for implementing the program and designing its features. This paper presents our perspective on how to address the core policy issues in building an automatic and state-based savings platform. The RFI posed a series of questions whose answers could inform the policy design process. The questions were grouped around discrete topics, including plan structure, investment options, plan design, and cost and fees. We have used these topics to organize our paper.

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