Proposed program aims to help Hawaii residents save for retirement

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Nearly a quarter of a million Hawaii workers have little to no retirement savings, according to a study by AARP Hawaii.    

They have no way to do so working for small businesses.

Now they could have a new, automatic way to save for retirement.

“The average savings in a working household is about $3,000 and you can’t retire on that,” Barbara Kim Stanton, AARP Hawaii State Director said.  “And if you’re near retirement, it’s about $12,000. What AARP is concerned about, is that people not retire into poverty.”

“Hawaii Saves” is the working title of a program that AARP wants the state to set up with the private sector. Like in Oregon and other states, workers would save a chosen amount from each paycheck to put aside for retirement. 

A small percentage of workers’ deposits would fund the program’s operation. 

“So a state-facilitated payroll plan for a small business like myself would make me so much more competitive here in Hawaii, you know to compete with the mainland businesses that are here or other businesses that have such deeper pockets than small businesses,” Liz Hata-Watanabe, owner of Burgers on Bishop said.  “For our employees what this would do is prepare them so much better for their future and that’s so important, so this is definitely a plan that is of great interest for me and something that I would really get behind.”

A similar proposal was opposed by the insurance industry last session and while it won widespread lawmaker support, it failed to win ultimate approval. 

State Senator Brian Taniguchi told KHON2 he supports the program and believes a re-crafted bill during the coming session will have a better chance at success.

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