The recession has eaten into people's nest eggs so the government is promoting ways to make it easier to save for retirement.
One initiative that President Barack Obama outlined in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday will allow people to have their federal tax refunds sent as savings bonds. Others are meant to require workers to take action to stay out of an employer-run savings program rather than having to take action to join it.
"We know that automatic enrollment has made a big difference in participation rates by making it simpler for workers to save," Mr. Obama said. "That's why we're going to expand it to more people."
The new federal steps, which do not require congressional action, include:
"This recession has not only led to the loss of jobs, but also the loss of savings," Mr. Obama said, citing declines in home values as well as sources of retirement income.
"If you work hard and meet your responsibilities, this country is going to honor our collective responsibility to you: to ensure that you can save and secure your retirement. That is why we are announcing several commonsense changes that will help families put away money for the future," President Obama said.
The administration earlier asked Congress to make it easier to set up retirement accounts for people whose workplaces do not offer them. No legislation has moved thus far.
"Tens of millions of families have been, for a variety of reasons, unable to put away enough money for a secure retirement," President Obama said. "Half of America's work force doesn't have access to a retirement plan at work. And fewer than 10 percent of those without workplace retirement plans have one of their own."
Nearly half of the U.S. work force has little or nothing beyond Social Security benefits to get by on in old age, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.
"Just as the administration is dedicated to reviving the economy and getting people back to work, so too it is dedicated to helping put retirement security within the reach of all Americans," Geithner said in a statement.
While saving for retirement is universally seen as a good idea, any increase in savings rates could somewhat slow the nation's rebound from the economic recession.
For more info:
Treasury and IRS Information on Retirement Savings
By Associated Press Writer Charles Babington