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Will Obama’s ‘myRA’ retirement plan take off?
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Will Obama’s ‘myRA’ retirement plan take off?

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Will Obama’s ‘myRA’ retirement plan take off?

In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama announced that he would introduce a new kind of retirement-savings plan for workers who don’t have access to such plans through their jobs. “While the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401(k)s,” the president said. But how much of an impact will his proposal have for middle- and lower-income savers?

The plan, which Obama dubbed the “myRA” (rhymes with the initials “IRA”), is designed to create “starter accounts” that would help novice investors avoid some common pitfalls of retirement savings. In briefing materials accompanying the State of the Union address, the administration noted that many private-sector providers don’t allow “smaller balance savers” to open accounts; providers who do allow such accounts often charge fees that can eat up a proportionately high percentage of their balances.

In his address, Obama described the myRA as “a new savings bond” that “guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in.” That wording brings to mind efforts by the Treasury Department to create “R bonds,” a special kind of interest-paying Treasury bond aimed at retirement savers; details of how such a bond would work haven’t been released yet.

In The Wall Street Journal this evening, Damian Paletta and Anne Tergesen report that the administration “is expected to encourage employers to offer the investment vehicles to employees who would be automatically enrolled unless they specifically elected not to participate.”

Like many other provisions mentioned in the speech, the myRA could be created by the executive branch without express approval from Congress. But will it matter?

“My initial thought is this could be of value for many Americans who don’t have a company-sponsored retirement plan,” says Jeffrey Levine, an IRA technical consultant with Ed Slott and Co. and MarketWatch RetireMentor. “By all accounts, this would be a way to put away additional money on a tax-deferred basis.”

But what Levine and others want to know how long someone would have to hold a myRA before they can roll the money into their IRA or other retirement account. “If the hold time is too long, I think it will diminish a lot of interest, as savers may choose to invest their money in something other than government bonds,” he said.

Levine also suggested that those without an employer-sponsored retirement plan not hold their breath waiting for myRAs to become a reality. “I’m in favor of anything that can help people accumulate more money to enjoy during their golden years, but just because President Obama talks about it during his State of the Union address or includes it as part of his budget proposal doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” said Levine.

Will Obama's 'myRA' retirement plan take off? - Encore - MarketWatch

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