Henny Youngman, the aptly-named "King of the OneLiners," used to joke that his accountant recently had reviewed hisfinances and assured him that he had invested enough money to live comfortablyfor the rest of his life.
That was provided he died by 5 o'clock that afternoon.
Looking at the present state of my 201(k) and severalspeculative securities that have gone from the NYSE to the pink sheets, myfuture financial picture is probably comparable to his - minus Henny'somnipresent violin.
But it was not for lack of trying.
Like many others in their early working careers, Ifoolishly elected not to opt into the 401(k) program my first employer offered,but in cutting me some slack, it was at a time when that benefit was still inits infant stages and there weren't a lot of experienced participantsadvocating enrollment.
But that was then. At the urging of my now better halfbut then-fiancé (read: a swift slap to the back of my head) I quickly signed upfor the program at my next place of employment where I contributed to it forthe next 12 years.
However, it's astonishing that today, nearly 80 millionAmericans have no employer-based retirement plans. Some of that figureundoubtedly stems from the fact that some companies don't offer retirementplans, but conversely, other reasons include employees choosing not to opt inor others with little or no degree of basic financial literacy.
Last week, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass. introduced theAutomatic IRA Act of 2010, legislation that would allow companies to establishautomatic payroll deposit Individual Retirement Accounts, or Auto IRAs, forworkers who do not have access to employer-provided qualified pension plans.
The bill, developed jointly by the Brookings Institutionand the Heritage Foundation, would require employers to automatically enrollemployees in an "Auto IRA" unless the employee chooses to opt out.
Neal, who chairs the Subcommittee on Select RevenueMeasures in the House Ways and Means Committee, described it as a "set itand forget it" payroll deposit.
The legislation also provides exemptions, simplifiedprocedures and a tax credit to make it easy to implement for small businesses.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate by JeffBingaman, D-N.M. Under Bingaman's bill, employees age 18 and older who havebeen employed for at least 3 months would be automatically enrolled in an IRA.The bill currently sets 3 percent of a worker's paycheck to be withheld anddirectly deposited into an Automatic IRA account.
Companies would receive a $250 tax credit for each of thefirst two years of Automatic IRA operation to offset the administrative costs.Employers that fail to offer an automatic IRA to workers would be subject to anexcise tax of $100 for each employee who was supposed to be covered.
The Retirement Security Project, a non-partisan effortdedicated to improving the retirement income prospects of American workers,estimated that the Auto IRA proposals could raise net national savings bynearly $8 billion annually.
If Henny was still with us today, he would have no doubtexclaimed, "Take part of my paycheck - please!"
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