CalSavers: What to know about CA's new retirement savings plan for workers without access

Melanie Woodrow Image
Monday, July 25, 2022
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CalSavers is the new retirement savings plan launched by California this year, aimed at helping workers who do not have access through their employer

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Californians who are self-employed or who work for a very small business now have a new way to save for retirement: it's called CalSavers.

David Larot has been teaching yoga for nearly 20 years.

"I love what I do," Larot said.

Larot says he made the leap to teaching full-time in 2010.

"It's definitely a grind. It's a hustle," Larot said.

And one that hasn't always lent itself to long-term savings. Larot previously worked for a business that offered retirement savings accounts to full-time yoga teachers but during the pandemic that changed.

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"They cut 5,000 teachers off their roster and that was including myself, and so I've been without any sort of retirement plan since the summer of 2020," Larot said.

On June 30, any employer in California with five or more employees was required to sign up for CalSavers, the state's new retirement savings program for private sector workers who don't have access to a retirement plan at work.

Katie Selenski is the program's executive director.

"We know that about half of Californians are headed towards economic insecurity in their retirement years. Eight million of them don't have access to a retirement plan at work," Selenski said.

There's no fee for employers. CalSavers default is a Roth IRA, with post-tax deductions from an employee's paycheck with no matching contributions. The standard setting is a 5% contribution. Employees can opt out or change their contributions. Automatic enrollment is meant to help people save for retirement.

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"All of us need a little nudge sometimes," Selenski said.

It's also meant to level the playing field.

Nari Rhee is the director of the Retirement Security Program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center. Her research focuses on the retirement crisis facing California.

"Two-thirds of workers who don't have access to any kind of retirement plan are workers of color," Rhee said. "And that's because workers of color are more likely to work in sectors where retirement benefit offering tends to be low."

Rhee provided estimated data to ABC7 News regarding Bay Area workers without retirement benefits in 2021, broken down by industry.

Of the top three, topping the list was accommodation and food services, as in the hotel and restaurant sector.

Following that was healthcare and social assistance, including people providing support to seniors and those with disabilities.

After that, professional and technical services.

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Rhee says workers are much more likely to save for retirement if there is a payroll deduction program at work.

So far, more than 85% of Bay Area employers have met the deadline for enrolling their employees. Those who don't face non-compliance penalties beginning at $250 per employee. Self-employed people can also sign themselves up for CalSavers by visiting the website.

Larot says he's grateful for the option.

"Hopefully with this new rollout, it'll help people have some sort of savings plan for the future," he said.

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live