Auto-Enrollment Retirement Plans for the People: Choices and Outcomes in Oregonsaves

61 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2021 Last revised: 16 Oct 2021

See all articles by John Chalmers

John Chalmers

University of Oregon

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School, Pension Research Council; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jonathan Reuter

Boston College - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mingli Zhong

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2021

Abstract

Oregon recently launched an automatic-enrollment retirement savings program for private sector workers lacking access to other workplace retirement plans. We analyze participation choices, account balances, and inflow/outflow data using administrative records between August 2018 and April 2020. Within the small to mid-sized firms served by OregonSaves, estimated average after-tax earnings are low ($2,365 per month) and turnover rates are high (38.2% per year). Younger employees and employees in larger firms are less likely to opt out, but participation rates fall over time. The most common reason given for opting out is “I can’t afford to save at this time,” but the second most common is “I have my own retirement plan.” As of April 2020, 67,731 accounts had positive account balances, holding $51.1 million in total assets. The average balance is $754, but with considerable dispersion; younger workers accumulating the fewest assets due to higher job turnover. Overall, we conclude that OregonSaves has meaningfully increased employee savings by reducing search costs. The 34.3% of workers with positive account balances in April 2020 is comparable to the marginal increase in participation at larger firms in the private sector. Employees opting out of OregonSaves are often doing so for rational reasons.

Suggested Citation

Chalmers, John and Mitchell, Olivia S. and Reuter, Jonathan and Zhong, Mingli, Auto-Enrollment Retirement Plans for the People: Choices and Outcomes in Oregonsaves (February 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28469, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3785803

John Chalmers (Contact Author)

University of Oregon ( email )

Lundquist College of Business
1208 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States
541-346-3337 (Phone)

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School, Pension Research Council ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Jonathan Reuter

Boston College - Department of Finance ( email )

Carroll School of Management
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Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3808
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Mingli Zhong

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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