Building on what works: A proposal to modernize retirement savings


Workers rely more than ever on individually directed retirement savings vehicles, such as defined-contribution plans and IRAs, to provide the income necessary for a comfortable retirement. Yet our current system contains many features that make it easier for workers to spend than to save, and it inefficiently spends federal dollars on incentives with questionable effectiveness. This paper proposes two related reforms that build on evidence about how to increase retirement savings by increasing the benefits and decreasing the costs to employers of helping their employees save. First, this paper recommends combining all of the various types of retirement accounts into a single Universal Retirement Saving Account. Second, this paper recommends replacing part of the individual tax subsidy for retirement savings with large tax credits directed to employers who help workers save. These two reforms would generate large increases in savings for middle-class workers and, ultimately, in the well-being of retirees.