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States Swoop In to Save Your Retirement, Sort Of

The federal government won’t be the hero of the American savings crisis. How about California and Illinois?
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Illustration: Getty Images

The U.S. retirement system is a failure, in at least one respect: Half of private-sector workers have no access to a 401(k) or a pension plan on the job, so millions of Americans have scant retirement savings or none at all. To retire, they’ll need to rely on programs such as Social Security and Medicaid.

The federal government has done little to get more Americans saving for retirement. In December the White House launched a pilot program called myRA (My Retirement Account), an individual retirement account (or IRA) set up through an employer’s payroll system and aimed at low-income workers. But participation is voluntary, and Congress has gotten nowhere with bills proposed to encourage workplace retirement plans.