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Obama Offers Steps to Make Retirement Savings Easier

By Scott Wilson
President Obama announced on Saturday a series of what he called "common-sense steps" to make it easier for workers to save for retirement, citing an urgent need after the recession wiped out $2 trillion in retirement savings over the past two years.

The changes, which he outlined in his weekly radio address, are largely technical and do not need congressional approval to implement. They are meant to encourage workers to put any extra pay or cash, including unused leave time and tax refunds, directly into retirement accounts, rather than spend it.

Obama said the Treasury Department would simplify rules, making it easier for workers to automatically enroll in an employee-sponsored 401(k) and other retirement plans, to use federal tax refunds to buy savings bonds directly, and to permit unused sick and vacation leave to be transferred directly to savings plans.

In addition, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service are publishing a "plain-English" guide to retirement accounts, including how to roll over savings when changing jobs or plans. The changes and guide can be found at

"The fact is, even before this recession hit, the savings rate was essentially zero, while borrowing had risen and credit card debt had increased," Obama said. "Many were simply struggling to stay afloat as incomes were stagnant -- or falling -- and jobs were scarce."

"But there were also those who spent beyond their means," Obama continued. "And more broadly, tens of millions of families have been, for a variety of reasons, unable to put away enough money for a secure retirement."

Speaking on Labor Day weekend, the president said that 78 million people, or roughly half the U.S. labor force, do not have a retirement savings plan through their work. Moreover, fewer than 10 percent of those without employer-sponsored plans contribute to a private savings plan outside the job.

Obama said the steps announced Saturday are intended to build on proposals included in his budget, including an automatic IRA-enrollment plan and a government tax-credit matching program to encourage low- and middle-income families to save. Those measures are pending before congressional committees now busy with health-care legislation.

"We cannot continue on this course," he said. "If you work hard and meet your responsibilities, this country is going to honor our collective responsibility to you: to ensure that you can save and secure your retirement."

By Scott Wilson  |  September 5, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Economy  
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I read some of the posts and can't help but think "what lemmings." Government takes too much of your money and then you allow them to give you an I.O.U. next year instead of the money you are owed?

Wow! I knew our public schools were bad, but not this bad.
I got a bridge in Brooklyn you can buy too!

Posted by: citizenjoe | September 8, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"...President Obama is leading the way to a strong America, instead of an America borrowed on credit..."

Onestring,are you serious?! Obama has already added to our catastrophic 11 Trillion in national debt when he authorized the so called stimulus package which is mostly funded through deficit spending. Meaning, money we don't have but borrowed from foreign creditors. Now he's want to commit the nation to another money hemorrhaging entitlement program through MORE deficit spending which will push us the country to the brink at $20 Trillions! What do you think a citizen's savings is worth when the government continues to devalue + inflate the currency with such reckless, out of control spending?!

"But there were also those who spent beyond their means," Obama continued.. That's right, Mr. President. You should take your own advice.

Posted by: joktu71 | September 7, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

I was a financial consultant for 17 years and these simple steps are long overdue.

A country with a strong savings base, and a population that saves by habit will ALWAYS be strong.

President Obama is leading the way to a strong America, instead of an America borrowed on credit.

Remember this: 1. Pay yourself first each month by putting money in your own savings and retirement.

2.Your money doubles every 10 years if you put it in an IRA or 401-k and average 7%. Now pick how much you want at retirement, and do the math. Then start slamming it away for your family.

Don't listen to the gold under your mattress crowd - they are posting from a survivalist camp in a millitia-minded state.

Posted by: onestring | September 6, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

do not put ur $$$ in savings accounts,401k,savings bonds,the stock market. buy a good safe and store cash,precious metals in it. do not use credit cards. only a burglar can steal it,instead of the professional criminals of obie,gang on hill,and the financial scumbags

Posted by: pofinpa | September 6, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse


The cost of two wars is approximately $1 trillions over approximately 10 years. The Obama debt is already up $1.5 trillions plus $1 trillions for the stimulous in just nine months. The projected debt for the next ten years under the Democratic / Obama plans ranges from nine to twelve trillions dollars.

I think we can judge that the future debt is an arterial rupture Obama is trying to staunch with the bandaid of Savings Bonds.

As for the current financial situation, that was a combination of poor decisions by two Presidents, George W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton. Together they endorsed the Greenspan Fed policies and unloosed the financial giants from reasonable supervision. I did not support these policies.

Posted by: krush01 | September 6, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

What happened to "looking forward and not looking back?"

Sure, Bush spent too much.

But why excuse Obama's tripling that spending in less than a year?!

Two wrongs do not make a right my friends.

Get off your party high horse (both sides)and use common sense.

Obama promised to fix everything, so far he's only made it worse.

I prefer to save my own money and not pay more in taxes to support the tens of millions who don't contribute to government spending. Those tens of millions are the chief beneficiaries of Obama's programs.

Simple redistribution of wealth.

I work full time at a low level position, I am a full time graduate student; I don't ask anyone for help. Those who didn't work hard enough or made poor decisions in the past should not be bailed out by the productive side of society.

Posted by: vmidurk | September 6, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I think this is a good idea. This is better than Republican's stupid plan to privatize social security !! Repubs remember what you wanted to do to social security .. I am happy you guys are out of power and hope to see you sit it out for the next 25 years!! Republicans are sounding more and more like communists. Get some ideas instead of calling people names. I know how hard that will be for you folks.

Posted by: hellowashington | September 5, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

"The d-crat socialists plan to GUT SOCIAL SECURITY."


Posted by: JohnQuimby | September 5, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

krush01 sez:

"The BIG DEBT that President Obama has incurred to pay off the sponsors of Democratic social policy."

You've omitted the cost of 2 wars
and the collapse of the tax base under that Republican guy.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | September 5, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Once again the Post fails to check the facts, and allows the President to get away with a lie of omission.

Today the U.S. savings rate is the highest in fifteen years -- to 6.9 percent in May of 2009.

Also, unconsidered is the value of taking your tax return in the form of savings bonds. Currently I Bonds earn zero (0.0) percent and EE Bonds earn 0.77 percent for the first six months of their thirty year term.

A six month CD at Ally Bank will pay you 1.65% APR.

This means that by putting money in the Savings Bond the President will be cheating Americans not into savings but into paying down the national debt he is raising. This will also deny vital capital to private industry, funneling savings from the private sector to the public sector.

This entire progam is a lie, not in the interests of the American people or the workers; it is in the interest of BIG GOVERNMENT, and BIG DEBT. The BIG DEBT that President Obama has incurred to pay off the sponsors of Democratic social policy.

This is something for the Republicans (and YES THE WASHINGTON POST) to tear into.

Posted by: krush01 | September 5, 2009 5:13 PM | Report abuse

So after the A hole in the White House, his corrupt party in Congress, and his egghead advisors have trashed the economy and caused trillions in lost wealth, the dishonest POS wants people to save?
Gimme a break.
You nitwits who think the incompetent Odumbo is still a winner need to start drinking or smoking somethind else Your brains are fried.

Posted by: LarryG62 | September 5, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Have you ever heard the one....I had US Savings Bonds once...the dog ate them., and I couldn't cash him in.

Posted by: dottydo | September 5, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Obamabots should all believe Obama, and go for a tax defer plan.

When you want your money can pay the taxes this kook and clown minions are going to have placed upon you.

Can you say 100% LOSS ON THE INVESTMENT?

By the time Obama is done you will probably owe 400% for ever having put it in there, in taxation.

By all means drink some more Koolaide and invest in Obama's plans some more.

Posted by: dottydo | September 5, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

If Obama printed his picture on Hemp cloth and called it money , it would actually have more value in the World, than the stain they are putting on the faces of truely great and real American leaders we have had.
NPD sociopathic dual profiles usually always wind up with a drug gang following before they end up dragged to prison, don't they?

Posted by: dottydo | September 5, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who are NOT smarter than a 5th grader, here is the reason hussein is doing this:

The d-crat socialists plan to GUT SOCIAL SECURITY, just as they are planning to do to Medicare. The massive numbers of Boomers cannot be supported by these programs and therefore the socialists plan to just curtail them. Besides, these programs are just for old people, the "problem" people in socialist eyes, who tend to be conservative and don't vote for socialists. The d-crat socialists therefore don't need them, and they will re-direct federal money to those WHO BELIEVE, like ACORN members.

Posted by: LoonyLeft | September 5, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

ATLguy: your memory of the Bush recommended changes to Social Security is faulty. Perhaps that is by design.

President Bush advocated an OPTIONAL system where YOUNGER workers could VOLUNTARILY divert a PORTION of their Social Security taxes to a private investment account. For your purposes, think of it as the original PUBLIC OPTION.

With regard to retirement in this country, I can attest to the fact that it is possible to save for and have a nice retirement. However, to achieve this goal requires some personality traits that seem to be scarcer and scarcer to find each year in our population.

First, you must not sleep through high school. Next, you either acquire a profession through a) college or b) a trade.

You work hard and save at least five percent of your salary without fail. You don't buy a boat, or a new car every other year, or the latest and greatest fad whatever it happens to be. Yeah, your kids will feel a little alienated, and maybe your habits won't fit in with all your neighbors, but your goals are different.

You invest your savings in conservative accounts, but understand even those will have ups and downs over the various market cycles. But you start your plan when you are 21, and work it faithfully for 45 years.

It's worked for me. It could work for you. But something tells me you have too many chips on your shoulders.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | September 5, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

A US saving's bond?!?! Really? How cute. No thanks. What kinda idiot would want future US dollars? Really? too much.

Forced saving? As my dollar declines in value? Really?

Let me get this straight... he wants me to give him good cash now for his promises later?

He wants me to save more now? as my dollar weakens almost daily? Insanity is the word. Incompetent is our "leader"

Posted by: docwhocuts | September 5, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Hey post2009, its uneducated people like you that make all Americans look stupid. to send your tax refund in the form of a savings bond YOU HAVE TO CHECK A BOX ON YOUR TAX RETURN.

Secondly, to those that say the prior administration did this you are totally wrong. What Bush wanted to do was to dismantle Social Security by having people invest their money in the stock market. What this would've done would've allowed the banks to keep up their little bait and switch caper until a new administration came along and then the financial crisis would've happened on their watch and not his. Bush's proposal would've wiped out millions of Americans and destroyed Social Security. People were right to not trust Wall Street - the evidence is on the table for all to see.

For others, the reality is that millions of Americans can not retire. In any system, there needs to be a renewal wherein older people retire and younger people get hired. Older people are working longer and longer because they do not have money saved for retirement and if they do retire they loose their healthcare. You can scream Nazi and socialism all you want but that's not the reality in Europe. People are able to retire with some dignity in Europe - not so here in the States. To retire, people have to sell their homes and move to the Caribbean and Mexico to maintain some semblance of dignity. Some system we have here indeed.

Posted by: ATLGuy | September 5, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute ... not so fast. Wasn't it last October the Democrats were talking about nationalizing ALL 401 PLANS!!!!

So let me get this straight ... you want us to put MORE money in them, so the government will have MORE money when they take them over?

It's just absolutely unbelievable how this administration plays the populace.

Posted by: playfair109 | September 5, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The President wants us to save our tax refunds. I believe it will not work because the majority of the American public are struggling making monthly payments such as housing it is so expensive to rent or pay a mortgage); student loans (some individuals owe in addition to college education, advanced education); car insurance; medical bills; not to mention food. Mr. President, I will not save my tax refund. I just cannot do that. I have so many bills to pay each month. I think, Mr. President, your proposal is for individuals who earn a lot of money.

I don't want you to think that I am one of those individuals who oppose everything you say. No. In fact, I support you 100% in terms of health insurance reform and I support the public option. But regarding your recent proposal (save our tax refunds), I think most Americans will not be able to save their income tax refunds. As I just explained, the reality is different. We cannot save because we have too many bills to pay each month.

Posted by: post2009 | September 5, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

No wonder the money rags are warning that 401ks are a bust, and to avoid them.
Anyone seen the cover of Forbes Sept. 7 issue?

Posted by: dottydo | September 5, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Gee, a prior administration tried this and the Dem's screamed bloody murder that they were undermining Social Security.
However, before anyone can save anything toward their retirement they must first have a modest paying full time job.

Posted by: sandynh | September 5, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Make it easier to contribute to a 401K??? Are you liberals having trouble figuring it out? Here let me make it easy for you. You tell your employer how much you want taken from your pay and he does it. If you are self employed you drive your prius to the bank or a brokerage house and open a 401k account. Then you deposit how much you want into it.

Are liberals really that dumb?

Posted by: robtr | September 5, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: bluelagoon21 | September 5, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

As unemployment soars why is that Obama is silent about out sourcing. Corporations are still shipping jobs overseas. During the presidential campaign it was a big issue for him and now he is silent about this two.Is it another sign that he is just another corporate lackey? I think so.

Posted by: bluelagoon21 | September 5, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Why does Obama have a race bating admitted communist on his staff ?

Posted by: dashriprock | September 5, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The people who are saying that 401(k)s and IRAs are some socialist Obama plot are totally nuts. 401(k)s and IRAs were created by corporations and Wall Street to off load the liability and risk of providing a pension to the employees themselves. Under the old pension system, employers guaranteed workers x dollars per year in a pension and if the investments lost money the company was responsible for any shortfall. With 401(k)s, the employees are totally responsible for picking the investments and if the market tanks just as they are retiring they are screwed.

Posted by: buffysummers | September 5, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

What is happening to this country? What's with all the hate? Seems like some people have become so entrenched in their own mindset, that no matter what the president says, it's always wrong.

We have become so divided as a nation. Meanwhile China, the Arabs, Russia, they are all laughing at the side watching us destroy ourselves!

Wake up people. The America we love is slowly sinking. Stop this fighting. Just stop it. This is no time for it. The vultures are circling above our heads. Ready to feed on the carcass that is the USA.

Posted by: lassie1 | September 5, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

The George Bush (who is awakening to the damage done to our nation due to his doctrinaire ignorance...not stupidity...just ignorance), Dic Cheney (he ain't ignorant) and that Sectretary of Defence, what's his name Don (who ain't uttering a peep; in case you haven't noticed).

...their savings plan worked real well. 2.5 billion a week into the pockets of the needy. The I need that dough needy and need it now.

And if you disagree, well, you ain't reading the facts, kiddo.

Now...whose saving plan do you want?

The 2.5 billion a week down the Iraq toilet and the "fundamentals of the economy are fine" and the consumer "just
spend" savings plan.

Or are you willing to try this one?

Let's hear a peep from the doctrinaire, dogma barking traitors.

Posted by: jato11 | September 5, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Isn't this what George W. Bush offered two years ago and Congress said was a bad idea because people would think that Social Security would be damaged by it?

Posted by: mil1 | September 5, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse


Hey, when you chose this handle, weren't you guessing it was already taken? I mean, that is exactly what I was going to pick! Some guys just lucky I guess.

I'll bet your password is


Am I right?

Posted by: shrink2 | September 5, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

These are great changes. A lot of us wish they had been made years ago.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | September 5, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Barry needs to secure his retirement.

Posted by: ChangeWhat | September 5, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Who cares what the GOP and their supporters think. They said nothing while Bush ruined this country.

Screw 'em all.

All the GOP is worried about is what they get; they don't care about Americans.

Posted by: camera_eye_11 | September 5, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

without jobs, what is the point...
seems obama wants to control your retirement...
as he wanted to control your health...
and manipulate your kids...
wonder what else obama wants to control...

Posted by: DwightCollins | September 5, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

If you have money you want to save, buy real stuff. Equity markets have already risen too much to be a good value and real estate has not. Obama wants you to buy T bills, to help finance the debt, but I think plain old land is a good value right now.

The Chinese own the future of the dollar and even the future of whatever is left of American manufacturing, but they can not devalue our property. In fact, I believe demand for American real property is going to return and remain high. It may be the only thing we have left to sell.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 5, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

And, as he will soon raise taxes, what is the point of accumulating wealth to give it to the poor and the Super Rich? Goldman Sachs, aka Government Sachs, was his biggest contributor. The bozos who sent in $5 helped subsidize the Banker Bonuses. Banker Pay is at record levels. The Big Banks we had to bail out are even bigger. And they pay 15%, while we pay 25% or 28% tax.

The Grandson of a Banker, aided by Rahmbo the Investment Banker-Lawyer, continue to blow smoke us our collective skirts while helping the Rich Bankers, the Trial Lawyers, and even the Docs, Big Pharma, and Hospital Lobbyists.

Ever wonder how much income tax David Axelrod and Michelle Obama paid on their $300,000 a year no show jobs at the University of Chicago Hospital?

Posted by: fdffjdjjf-0999--88888 | September 5, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, but A-B (Budweiser Et Al) was sold to a European company. And the hookers are illegal aliens who wire money out. However, there are quite a few American gun companies.

Posted by: fdffjdjjf-0999--88888 | September 5, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Those that claim "right wingers" always portray Obama's "common sense" initiatives as "socialist" should learn to read more analytically:

1) "a government tax-credit matching program to encourage low- and middle-income families to save"

This represents a direct transfer from federal income tax payers to non-federal income tax payers. That would be something you would find in a socialist economy.

2) "this country is going to honor our collective responsibility to you"

Collectivism is the underlying philosophy of socialism/communism. The truth is that each individual has a responsibility to plan for their own retirement. It is clear that Obama, and many others, do not agree with individual responsibility. Their economic philosophy is based on punishing the responsible and rewarding the irresponsible.

Posted by: Independent62 | September 5, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Obama is doing great things.

Posted by: GeorgHerbet | September 5, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

And now, the wingnut rebuttal:

"NO, NO, NO!!! Nobody's going to tell ME to save my money into a 401K!! Stop Obama's SOCIALIST, NAZI, Charles Manson agenda NOW! DOWN WITH SAVINGS!!!"


Posted by: CoolOnion | September 5, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

This is a very exciting program. I'll explain it using the Q and A format:

Q. What is an Economic Stimulus payment?

A. It is money that the federal government will send to taxpayers.
Q. Where will the government get this money?
A. From taxpayers.
Q . So the government is giving me back my own money?
A. Only a smidgen.
Q. What is the purpose of this payment?
A. The plan is for you to use the money to purchase a high-definition TV set, thus stimulating the economy.
Q. But isn't that stimulating the economy of China ?
A. Shut up.

Below is some helpful advice on how to best help the US economy by spending your stimulus check wisely:

• If you spend the stimulus money at Wal-Mart, the money will go to China

• If you spend it on gasoline, your money will go to the Arabs.

• If you purchase a computer, it will go to India.

• If you purchase fruit and vegetables, it will go to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala .
• If you buy a car, it will go to Japan or Korea.
• If you purchase useless stuff, it will go to Taiwan.
• If you pay your credit cards off, or buy stock, it will go to management bonuses and they will hide it offshore.

Instead, keep the money in America by:

1 spending it at yard sales, or
2 going to ball games, or
3 spending it on prostitutes, or
4 beer or
5 tattoos.

(These are the only American businesses still seem to be operating in the US .)


Go to a ball game with a tattooed prostitute that you met at a yard sale and drink beer all day.

Posted by: KBlit | September 5, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

How else to explain the tens of millions of people who will NEVER accumulate even a half a million dollars of assets in their lifetimes but who nevertheless vehemently oppose inheritance taxes because they honestly believe that it will impact themselves?


I'm under no illusion that the inheritance tax will ever impact me, but maybe there are some of us that feel hard earned money, that has already been taxed, should not be taxed again upon death. No matter the tax rate, it's never enough for the feds. Spending almost always exceeds revenue. This is evident by the fact that we've had a national debt for nearly 100 years. Maybe I could save more if nearly 50% of my income didn't disappear due to some form of tax. No doubt taxes are a way of life, as they should be. But they need not be excessive. You cannot tax a society into prosperity. It's just plain wrong that 1/2 of this country's population pays no federal income tax.

Posted by: kingsra | September 5, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

The President is on the money by encouraging people to save for retirement.

Posted by: darnelldavis1 | September 5, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I would be very wary of anything obozo says. If you build up any savings he will probably take it. Beware. the obozo government is the enemy.

Posted by: charlietuna666 | September 5, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

However much people don't want to hear what Obama said, there can be no doubt that IT IS TRUE. We have become a nation of wasters and spenders and consumers and live-for-today-because-the-future-will-miraculously-take-care-of-itself daydreamers. How else to explain the tens of millions of people who will NEVER accumulate even a half a million dollars of assets in their lifetimes but who nevertheless vehemently oppose inheritance taxes because they honestly believe that it will impact themselves? How else to explain folks who make $75,000 or less a year but have $250,000 + mortgages and $25,000+ in credit card or other consumer debt?

In truth, some of the blame for the current economic crisis rests with this contemporary "spend spend spend" culture. It poses a danger to the country's long term economic health.

Obama is trying to change this dangerous culture. I truly hope he succeeds, because the task is important and the stakes are huge.

But change is difficult, and it is particularly difficult for people to learn to do "without" some of the luxuries they have come to regard as "needs." Manicures and pedicures are luxuries, not necessities. A $15,000 car provides transportation just as well as a $35,000 car. Cars can last longer than five years! Your present living room furniture is probably perfectly okay. You really don't "need" more changes of clothing than there are days in a month. You don't "need" a $600 set of "gourmet" pots and pans. Etc. etc. etc.

All Obama is trying to do is get people to live within their means and save money for all those rainy days, including retirement.

Of course, I'm sure the right wing will find a way to find fault with these novel, outrageous, "liberal" notions. Maybe they'll even call it socialism. And there will be plenty of Americans who will believe it. After all, didn't George Dubya tell us that the "patriotic" thing to do is spend, spend, spend?

Posted by: incredulousinBoyntonBeach | September 5, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

we can try it

anything might work because of the massive chaos control we are in

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | September 5, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

So much has happened at the Federal Government level that tells us they hold the American People in contempt that the idea of the Feds setting up a savings plan is silly. 89 banks have failed last I looked, and unless it is Federally Insured, the gold bars under the bed trick seem the best plan there is. Further, with the debt standing as it is, and the illegal aliens in line for the 2.6 trillion dollar jackpot amnesty, I do not see how all this works out.

I think I will wait a while. But thank you.

Posted by: joelwisch | September 5, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

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