by Dick Schwarz, Former Executive Director, American Federation of Teachers – Oregon and Vice Chair, Oregon Retirement Savings Task Force 

I’m one of millions of lucky Americans who celebrated with high fives the day I retired. But with 8,000-10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, millions without any retirement savings, it’s not going to be high fives for long. Our country is facing a retirement crisis with economic impacts projected in the trillions of dollars. This crisis hit home this week, when the Oregon State Treasury announced that a million Oregonians don’t have a way to save for retirement through their employer.

For our state, that’s more than 40% more than previously estimated when I vice-chaired the Oregon Retirement Savings Task Force. Even more scary? According to the National Institute on Retirement, the average working American household has about $3,000 put away for retirement. Households nearing retirement have on average $12,000.

It’s now receiving media attention, but this has been a long time coming. Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has been quietly fighting for retirees since he took office. While the national retirement security crisis was coming to a slow boil, Oregonians had Wheeler on our side. I was fortunate to serve with Ted on the Retirement Savings Task Force and am proud that our report is leading to the creation of a retirement contribution plan that automatically enrolls workers not currently covered by a plan at their job. This plan is anticipated to roll out in July 2017. Wheeler’s foresight and leadership will help prevent tens of thousands in our state from retiring into poverty.

Although Individual Retirement Accounts are available to all, they’re not accessible to all, because minimum investment requirements can span $500-$3,000. Oregon’s state plan truly provides an open door for everyone. If you earn an income in Oregon, you’ll be eligible to save as part of the Oregon Retirement Savings Plan, putting a secure retirement within your reach.