Obama’s Retirement Reminder

State of the Union 2014
State of the Union 2014

In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama announced a new type of retirement account called “MyRA” to try to encourage Americans to save more money for retirement.

The new account is essentially a Roth IRA: workers put in earnings on which they’ve already paid income taxes and then don’t have to pay taxes on any investment gains as long as they wait until retirement to spend the money. The main differences are that the new account will include features to encourage small amounts of saving for people who can’t afford to make large contributions to a retirement account, and contributions are automatically invested in low-risk government bonds.

Investing only in low-risk government bonds isn’t ideal for most people saving for retirement.  Low-risk also means limited potential investment gains, and investors who aren’t planning to retire imminently can usually afford to take more risk to try to achieve higher returns.

Yet even for those who won’t use myRA accounts, the fact that the federal government feels the need to encourage people to save more for retirement should serve as an important reminder about the need to build up a nest egg. According to the Center for Retirement Research, half of American households are at risk of not being able to maintain their standard of living in retirement. Insufficient retirement savings are a problem for so many people that it’s become a national issue.

Different people have vastly different needs, so there’s no exact formula to determine how much money you need to live comfortably in retirement. There are many rules of thumb that people often use, such as “save at least 10% of your income for retirement”. Here’s another one: if you’re not sure if you’re saving enough and you can afford to save more, you probably should.