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Expanding coverage

Proposal targets N.Y. pension gap

Addressing: Teresa Ghilarducci’s idea would provide a personal retirement account for New Yorkers who aren’t covered by a pension plan.

Self-employed workers and employees in companies that don't offer retirement benefits in New York City could receive retirement coverage if an idea by a longtime pension researcher is turned into reality.

The idea is called a New York City personal retirement account. It would enable private-sector workers and employers to make contributions into pooled retirement funds managed by the Bureau of Asset Management, the same unit of the city comptroller's office that acts as investment manager for the city's $118.5 billion pension system.

This cash balance pension idea was developed by Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist and director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at The New School, New York.

In an interview, Ms. Ghilarducci said she wanted to address the shortfall in retirement savings by people who rely heavily on Social Security, who no longer qualify for pension plans and whose employment lacks other retirement benefits.

The workers' accounts would be portable, would benefit from lower fees because of economies of scale and would achieve better returns because of professional management, she said.

However, her idea would require approval by the state Legislature — and no bill has been introduced yet. Stephanie Hoo, a spokeswoman for New York City Comptroller John Liu, said the matter is still in the “discussion stage.”