Andrew G. Biggs, in his July 20 Friday Opinion essay, “ ‘Auto-IRAs’ could hurt the poor,” rightly pointed out that automatically enrolling low-wage workers in retirement plans, done clumsily, may divert resources from a more pressing need to save for emergencies. But he was wrong to suggest that they are well prepared for retirement and can rely on Social Security to provide enough to live on.
Unless Congress acts, Social Security will have sufficient funds to pay only 77 cents of each dollar currently promised. An adjustment of this size in 2018 would drop the average Social Security check of $16,848 to $12,973. Most older Americans depend on Social Security for all or most of their income. Most low-wage workers have little or no retirement savings to supplement Social Security.
Mr. Biggs, an American Enterprise Institute scholar, was also wrong to imply that state and federal governments should back away from efforts to include low-wage workers in retirement savings programs. Universal participation in retirement savings systems requires two basic elements — a tax credit that all workers can put in a long-term savings and investment account, and an institutional setting in which a fiduciary puts the funds to work. Such accounts could be designed with a compartment for emergency savings while leaving most of the funds off-limits until retirement. But Mr. Biggs was correct that policymakers, who typically have affluent backgrounds, should be careful to consider the needs and preferences of low-wage workers in designing retirement policy.
Karl Polzer, Falls Church
The writer is founder of the Center on Capital & Social Equity.