Nationally, only about 13 percent of private-sector workers are covered by a pension, a dramatic fall from the peak of 46 percent in 1980. By contrast, 47 percent of private-sector workers are in defined-contribution arrangements like an individual retirement account or 401(k).
That number is set to grow: Under a 2016 California law, starting next June all businesses with more than 100 employees must offer their workers a retirement plan, and by June 2022 all businesses with more than five workers must do so.
Businesses can give their workers access to the state’s CalSavers’ Roth IRA at no cost to the business. (More than 4.6 million Californians are members of state and local pension plans; public workers make up almost a quarter of the Sacramento region’s workforce.)
For those entering that or another defined-contribution plan offered by an employer, here are tips from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Consumer Federation of America on taking advantage of what these plans offer.
- Get in early. The magic of compounding means at a conservative growth rate of 5 percent, $100 a month saved starting at age 21 turns into $191,000 by age 65. Use automatic paycheck deductions, which forces you to save regularly.
- Take advantage of the employer match. If your employer matches your contributions up to a set limit, contribute up to that limit — the employer’s portion represents a 100-percent return on your investment.
- Save more as your earnings rise. Ideally, increase the percentage of your earnings that you save each year. A great time to boost your rate is after a raise.
- Rebalance your investments every year. You can allocate your savings between stocks, bonds, cash and so forth. When one of these classes rises faster than the others, it can comprise a bigger portion of your portfolio, so reallocate every year to return to your original percentages (some plans do this automatically).
- Don’t bail out. Many people cash out their retirement when they change jobs. Don’t be like them — roll your account over to the plan offered by your new employer.
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Pensions put the risk on employers, who are on the hook to pay retirees an agreed amount no matter what happens to the underlying investment.