Treasurer Diossa Advocates for 40% of Working Rhode Islanders Lacking Retirement Savings Plans

Published on Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Providence, RI – Today, Rhode Island General Treasurer James A. Diossa joined AARP and the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA) in engaging with state legislators in support of the Secure Choice Act, which would create a portable retirement savings plan for private sector employees who are not currently a retirement savings program at work.

“We are on the precipice of a retirement crisis and the Secure Choice Act is a central part of that solution.” said General Treasurer Diossa. “Private sector employees have been largely overlooked in a shifting retirement landscape. Our state ranks 48th in employee access to private sector retirement savings. A generation ago, many private businesses provided retirement plans. Today, many middle-class families are unable to save enough during their working years and may have to rely on public assistance in their later years. By passing this bill, Rhode Island will create a voluntary savings program that equips working class families with a tool to build a secure financial future."

The Rhode Island Black Business Association is one of several advocacy groups supporting Secure Choice. 

“Almost one-half of all working Americans (approximately 55 million) work for employers that offer no retirement plan and 85 percent of Americans are not on a path to achieving a secure retirement,” said Senator Meghan Kallman. “The evidence here is clear: giving workers access to pre-tax payroll deductions is the best way to encourage retirement savings. That’s a big part of being able to live a comfortable and healthy retirement, which is what we want for everyone in our community. This program will be especially helpful to small businesses, giving them access to a tool that only larger businesses can typically afford. 70% of employees at businesses with under 10 employees have no retirement plan at work. The Secure Choice program is a win-win-win and will make a huge difference in the lives of Rhode Islanders.”

“AARP Rhode Island urges the General Assembly to pass Secure Choice this year,” said Catherine Taylor, AARP Rhode Island State Director.  “The cost of doing nothing is too high:  to older adults, who need their own savings to enjoy choice and dignity in retirement; to small businesses, 76% of which told AARP that being able to offer a voluntary, portable retirement savings program would help them attract and retain quality workers and stay competitive; and to the state budget, as the Pew Charitable Trusts has estimated that inadequate retirement savings would cost Rhode Island taxpayers a cumulative $460 million in social assistance by 2040.  The time to act is now.  Every one of us will benefit.”

“In one year, the number of Black employers in RI grew by over 90%. Secure Choice reinforces this economic momentum by ensuring that even the smallest business in RI can offer highly competitive benefits to potential employees at ZERO additional cost to the business owner,” said Kristina Contreras Fox, RIBBA Director of Policy. “Furthermore, making retirement accounts publicly available to all RI workers will accelerate closing the racial wealth gap. Right now, over half of all Black workers in RI don't have access to retirement savings through their job, and over half of all Black households in RI are at risk of having zero savings for retirement whatsoever.  Secure Choice provides a secure future for hardworking Rhode Islanders now and for generations to come.”

The Rhode Island Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program Act (“Secure Choice”), sponsored by Senator Meghan Kallman and Representative Evan Shanley, would provide employees at businesses of five or more people access to an individual retirement account. Employers with five or more employees are exempt from the Act if they offer employees a retirement savings option. The savings plan is portable, meaning it follows employees if they change their employer.