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Legislation

Lawmakers reintroduce retirement savings bill

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., co-sponsor of the Retirement Security and Savings Act of 2019

Updated with clarification

A bipartisan bill that has garnered broad support in the retirement community was reintroduced Tuesday in the Senate by Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md.

The Retirement Security and Savings Act of 2019 features more than 50 provisions aimed at improving coverage with small employers and among part-time workers. Notably, the bill would also reduce barriers to lifetime income options and allow employees to keep retirement savings in qualified plans until the age of 72, and eventually 75, before having to withdraw a minimum amount, beyond the current age limit of 70 1/2.

The bill establishes a new automatic enrollment safe harbor for employers to meet non-discrimination requirements and allows employers to make matching contributions to retirement accounts of employees paying off qualified student-loan debt.

"This legislation includes sweeping reforms to help Americans save more for retirement by allowing people who have saved too little to set more aside for their retirement, helping small businesses offer 401(k)s and other retirement plans, expanding access to retirement savings plans for low-income Americans without coverage, and providing more certainty and flexibility during Americans' retirement years," Mr. Portman said in a statement. "I look forward to working with Sen. Cardin and my colleagues in the House and Senate to help strengthen the retirement security of all Americans."

The two senators initially introduced the bill late last year, shortly before the congressional session wrapped up. This bill is largely the same.

"Ensuring that families and workers can retire with dignity and stability is an ongoing, and strongly bipartisan, effort," Mr. Cardin said in the news release. "There have been many recent efforts acknowledging this need, yet more work needs to be done to make sure families have the necessary tools to be successful in their retirement."

Christopher Spence, senior director of federal government relations for TIAA-CREF in Washington, said the bill would addresses a serious demand. "We need to make sure that people have access to plans; this helps with that," he said. "We need to make sure that people are savings enough in plans; this helps with that. And we need to make sure that people have access to a steady stream of guaranteed income and have the tools available that can help them with that ... and this really does all those things."

The bill was praised multiple times Tuesday during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on retirement security. Mr. Spence said it's likely that the House the bill will be treated as phase two in Congress' retirement security efforts.

First, the House is expected to pass the Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, referred to as the SECURE Act, this month. Then the Senate, which has the Retirement Enhancement Savings Act that features many of same core provisions, will work out what a final bill will look like. "We'll see something happen in that respect before Portman-Cardin really starts to move," Mr. Spence said. The Portman-Cardin bill "represents the next step, once we get SECURE/RESA passed, how do we keep the momentum going? And that's really what we're looking at with the Portman-Cardin bill."