The MyRA Follow-Up

MyRA UpdateBack in January, President Obama introduced the MyRA – My Retirement Account. As noted by President Obama, the program’s goal is to encourage millions of Americans to build savings that can supplement Social Security benefits.

Considering that Americans already have access to a myriad of savings and retirement plans including 401(k) and 403(b)s; traditional and Roth IRAs, Rollover IRAs, health savings accounts, and 529 college savings plans, many people wondered how the MyRA was different and what exactly did it add to the mix?

Essentially, the MyRA is a type of Roth IRA. It allows after-tax dollars to grow tax-free until retirement. Geared toward lower-income Americans, one objective is to encourage people to get in the habit of saving. Supporting that idea, this new plan will allow people to open a MyRA with as little as $25, and to contribute as little as $5 in regular payroll deductions. As many have noted, private financial services companies could offer such small accounts, however, they don’t because it’s not profitable for them to do so.

What are the key overarching outlines of the plan in addition to the $25 required to open an account and the $5 minimum requirement for payroll deductions? The MyRA is available only to those who don’t have a retirement plan through their employer, there are no matching contributions, it is only available to whose household income is less than $191,000 each year and once the account balance hits $15,000 or after 30 years (or earlier if desired), it must be rolled into a private Roth IRA.

One of the things that caught my attention was the proclamation by President Obama that the investment returns will be the same as those enjoyed by federal workers who invest in the Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund) and offered via the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). As noted on the TSP site, the G Fund assets are managed internally by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. The G Fund buys a non-marketable U.S. Treasury security that is guaranteed by the U.S. Government. This means that the G Fund will not lose money.

As a federal employee that contributes to TSP, I am aware of the low fee – 0.027% – associated not only with this particular fund, but all of the funds available in the plan. Interestingly, Jack Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, noted that unlike federal workers who invest in the G Fund, MyRA customers will pay no fees. The only thing better than ultra-low fees are no fees!

I don’t believe this new program alone will raise our dismal savings rate or solve the retirement crisis. However, based on my understanding of the program, I do believe anything that encourages Americans to save more, and provides a low-cost mechanism for doing so, is a step in the right direction.

Initially there wasn’t a lot of information on the U.S. Treasury website. Most of the outlines of the plan were covered in this White House Fact Sheet. However, the Treasury Department now has a MyRA page on their ReadySaveGrow website. While the MyRA may not be right for all SavvyReaders, I encourage you to pass along information that might be helpful to others.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

6 Comments

  1. While I don’t qualify for this program I am all for it. Establishing the habit of saving is critical for everyone…

  2. I’m a supporter of the MyRA program too. I believe something like 40% of workers do t even have access to an employer sponsored retirement plan. This is trying to provide them with the ability to save minimally. I didn’t realize there were no fees involved, that great. I would advocate for raising that max amount from $15,000 though. Nice review!

    • Agreed that it would be nice if the maximum contribution was raised a little. I suppose the thinking is that they primary objective is to get people started and once they get into the habit of saving, move the money – and continue with saving – in traditional retirement accounts. Thanks for stopping by, Kay.

  3. Great followup, I think this MyRA program gives people (who qualify for this) a chance to get started on saving for their retirement/future (especially some who thought it not possible or maybe they thought it was too difficult/out of their reach), which may in fact get them thinking about other ways they can contribute to their future. This program is a great catalyst indeed for empowering those folks by giving them a more level playing field in retirement planning.

    • Agreed. While many pooh – poohed the program when first announced, I do believe it has value for lower-income Americans and those that may not have access to a retirement plan through their employer. The most difficult thing, as with saving/investing overall, is to get the information to people and help them understand the potential value.

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