Friday, January 31, 2014

The President’s myRA

The President introduced something called a “myRA” at the State of the Union speech. He explained…

… while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401(k) s. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: myRA. It’s a savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. myRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in.”

The idea here is to encourage small retirement savers. The concern is that routine bank or investment fees (for example, the annual “maintenance” fee for an IRA) may discourage some (or many) from saving for retirement. Under the myRA, the government picks up that tab. The concept makes sense.

The myRA would function as a Roth-type account. Monies going in would not be deductible for income taxes.

Contributions will be automatic, voluntary and small. Initial investments could be as low as $25 and ongoing contributions as low as $5. Contributions would be made through “automatic” payroll deductions.

COMMENT: “Automatic” meaning actual employers who pay people in actual payroll department to process these transactions. Automatic seems to mean “magical” inside the Washington beltway. 

The myRA big deal will be the savers account balance “will never go down.”

COMMENT: Somewhat like a savings account or certificate of deposit. There are – by the way – no annual fees for those accounts either. They are “magical.”

The myRA will earn the same interest rate as the federal employees Thrift Savings Plan Government Securities Investment Fund.

NOTE: Which returned 1.47% in 2012. Unfortunately, inflation for 2012 was 1.8%. The G Plan pays investors the investor the average return on long-term Treasury bonds.  

It will be available to households earning up to $191,000 annually.

Participants will be able to save up to $15,000, or for a maximum of 30 years. 

            COMMENT: Remember: this is a “starter” savings plan.

There would be a provision to transfer the account to a Roth IRA.

COMMENT: That part makes sense, as these accounts can be described as “Roth-lite.”

The President created this by executive action this past Wednesday.

            COMMENT: Really? 

Reflecting the crowd currently occupying it, this White House also wants to compel employers that do not offer myRA’s to offer automatic enrollment IRAs.

OBSERVATION: Approximately half of American workers are not covered by a retirement plan at work, propelling policy mandarins to talk about “mandatory” solutions to the retirement “problem.” I acknowledge the problem - two problems, in fact. First, that many people do not save enough. It might help if they had a job, though. Second, that these hacks and their “mandatory” solutions are themselves a problem.  

Call me completely underwhelmed. 

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