"I don't see myself retiring anytime soon and I'm probably going to work until I'm 70--if not until I die," said Amparo Moreno, a California child care provider, in an interview about retirement.
Until recently, these were the only retirement options for Moreno and millions of other child care providers who work for years without raises, medical insurance, retirement benefits or even sick days. Now, they have another option.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Sept. 28 a bill to create the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program, the nation's first state-administered retirement savings program for private-sector workers.
Secure Choice is a voluntary retirement plan with modest, guaranteed benefits for workers who don't have access to an employer-sponsored plan. This plan will act as a supplement to Social Security and will be professionally managed and portable so workers can take their retirement savings from job to job.
This legislation is a huge victory for California where the retirement insecurity faced by working families poses a significant threat to the state's already strained safety net programs.
Nearly half of all middle-income California workers will retire with incomes at or near poverty, according to the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. For child care providers and other workers relying solely on Social Security, retirement would mean living below the poverty line. Social Security retirement benefits are less than $1,200 per month for low-income workers.
As a member leader at Service Employees International Union Local 99, Moreno knew what was at stake for her and other child care providers as lawmakers and the governor debated whether to pass Secure Choice. By engaging her network of colleagues and supporters, Moreno worked to educate many on the need for retirement security for private-sector workers. The passage of Secure Choice has given Moreno and millions of workers like her hope for the future. "I can now say that 'retiring in poverty' or 'working until I die,' is no longer my default retirement plan and the possibility of living the American Dream of a secure retirement is a reality."
The plan also sets a new bar and gives a strong nudge to lawmakers around the country. We must address the retirement security crisis looming over America before it's too late. California workers shouldn't be the only ones to have another retirement option.