Media Room

Retirement Savings Conference

Thank you Treasurer Wheeler for having me today and for your leadership on this important issue. 

The statistics about savings – or more accurately, the lack of savings -- are daunting … here and elsewhere. 

In Oregon, an estimated 1 million Oregonians are left without options to plan for retirement. 
Among private sector employees, Asian workers have the highest rate of access to retirement plans at 63 percent, followed closely by white and Black workers at 60 percent. The Latino community fairs far worse, with only 34 percent of private sector employees having access to retirement plans.

We also know that women are much less likely than men to be prepared for retirement. Despite the fact that nationally, women make up half of the workforce and are primary or co-breadwinners in two out of three households. 
But, women are only making 83 cents on the dollar for every man’s salary and a woman’s retirement savings often average less than 70 percent of a man’s. 

To put that into perspective, in Oregon, women make up 57.3 percent of all Oregon retirees and represent 80 percent of the poorest retirees. 

Today, the average savings for Oregonians approaching retirement age is $12,000. Depending where you live, that’s not even enough to cover rent for a single year. At the same time, and this is the good news, we are healthier and living longer. 

These figures are staggering.

But there is hope. As we know, because of the Oregon Bottle Bill, the beach Bill and our first-in-the nation Oregon Motor Voter law, Oregonians are rarely content to follow the herd and let injustices like these stand. We like to blaze our own trail and let others follow our examples.  That’s why I am pleased that once again, Oregon is among the first wave of states working to make it possible for every worker to save for retirement.  

I’d like to take a moment to thank State Rep. Tobias Read, Treasurer Ted Wheeler, and Senator Lee Beyer who led the effort to create the Oregon Retirement Savings Plan.
As Governor, it is important to me that every Oregonian have the opportunity to reach her or his full potential. And that we adopt policies that will sustain the well-being of current and future generations, no matter where in Oregon they live. 

Economic security is a critical part of that equation.  Last summer, I signed the legislation creating the Oregon Retirement Savings Plan as part of the Fair Shot agenda that expands economic opportunities for working families. 

Since last year, we took action to raise the minimum wage, expanded access to paid sick leave, and other measures that expand opportunities for Oregonians to work hard and get ahead. 

At the same time, we have been careful to ensure the advances we are making in Oregon allow our businesses to continue to thrive and compete.

Oregonians deserve the opportunity to work for a reasonable wage; be treated fairly in the workplace; and be able to plan for their future so they can retire with dignity, and greater peace of mind. 

The Oregon Retirement Savings Board is currently designing a plan that will offer access to a self-funded retirement account to those who do not have access to a plan through their employers. Thank you to the board members for the time and energy they are taking to be make this program is constructed to meet the needs of all participants – both workers and employers.

As a result of the new plan, a year from now, more Oregonians will be able to start putting money away for their retirement years, build nest eggs, and live more comfortably. 

As a result of the new plan, a year from now, more Oregonians will be able to start putting money away for their retirement years, build nest eggs, and live more comfortably. 

Improving financial know-how among all Oregonians is a critical element to saving for retirement. We can’t fully address the long-term retirement savings crisis unless Oregonians have a better understanding of how saving will improve their own financial health. 

We are all in this together. By making savings easier through the passage of smart public policy, and by improving financial literacy, we have the opportunity to help Oregonians improve their quality of life. And that’s exciting.

As Secretary of State I was pleased to be Rodel Fellow and remain very impressed with the quality, depth, and breadth of the Aspen Institute’s policy initiatives. That’s why I’m so happy to introduce Ida Rademacher, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Financial Security Program. 

Thank you.