Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Columbian and Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Americans, in general, are not good about saving for the future. A report last year from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that about half of U.S. families have no money put away for retirement.
Not that we are flippant about this. As CNBC.com wrote: “A whopping 46 percent of adults surveyed by Bankrate about their biggest money mistakes wish they had squirreled more away, whether for retirement, emergency expenses or their children’s educations.” But, as we all know, there are bills to pay, and the kids need braces, and we really needed that new car, and we can’t miss out on that vacation; saving for the future can wait for, um, the future.
Meanwhile, saving is not as easy as it used to be. Not all that long ago, many workers had defined pension plans through which their company would set aside money for a guaranteed payment upon retirement. With such plans largely disappearing, the impetus is upon employees to prepare. But in Washington, an estimated 62 percent of employees do not have access to retirement plans funded by payroll deductions.
Because of that, the state Department of Commerce recently launched the Washington Retirement Marketplace, offering assistance to both employers and employees in setting up savings plans. The marketplace (http://www.retirementmarketplace.com), approved by the Legislature in 2015, will provide one-stop shopping for 401(k) plans, traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Thus far, the marketplace isn’t much of a market, but state officials expect the number of options to grow over time.
Retirement plans allow pre-tax money to be taken out of paychecks and invested for long-term growth, and the need is evident. According to the Department of Commerce, Washington has about 131,000 private employers — most of them small — that do not offer access to retirement plans for workers. That includes roughly 2 million employees.
Theories vary about the amount of money that should be saved, but one rule of thumb goes like this: By age 50, you should have five times your annual salary in retirement savings; by age 60, you should have seven times your salary socked away. Another rule of thumb suggests setting aside 10 percent of your salary for investment in savings.
With Americans woefully unprepared for retirement, the Washington Retirement Marketplace stands at the forefront of what should become a growing trend. Forbes reports that 40 states have considered implementing programs to assist with savings, and 10 states have passed legislation to do so. Oregon has adopted an automatic IRA plan, but it is the only state other than Washington to have a program up and running.
With few workers adequately saving for the future, millions of Americans will find themselves relying solely upon Social Security during their post-work years. And with Social Security on shaky footing, there is no telling how much of that money will be available when the time comes.
Participation in Washington’s marketplace is voluntary, and state officials have not set enrollment targets. But any option is beneficial, and attention from the state can help raise awareness among workers. Ideally, it will help to create a cultural shift in which people recognize the need to begin saving for retirement at a young age.
Because, as it stands now, Americans are not very good about saving for the future. And many of us will suffer for that in our later years.
Opening day a time to dream
Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, which comes on Thursday, is more reliable than Punxsutawney Phil. It means springlike weather is near — at least in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s also a special time for baseball fans. It’s when hope for a successful season, even a World Series championship, seems possible. Everybody is tied atop the standings.
And this year, Opening Day has some interesting twists. It’s the first time since 1968 that all 30 MLB teams will be playing. In addition, it is the earliest Opening Day in baseball history.
But closer to home, across the Cascades at Safeco Field, it’s — as Yogi Berra said — déj... vu all over again. The King, Félix Hernández, will be making his 11th Opening Day start — and his 10th in a row.
“It’s an honor,” Hernández said. “Ten straight with one team. It’s really, really, really an honor for me. You are starting a new season and they are giving the ball to me and I appreciate that.”
Having the King on the mound will also make it special to those who are at Safeco on Thursday when Seattle Mariners take on Cleveland. It’s always a celebration in the bleachers when Félix is pitching.
Beyond that, the Mariners made a lot of trades and moves during the offseason. The lineup looks to be solid.
The Mariners took advantage of the fire sale going on in Miami and picked up speedy Dee Gordon, who had been playing second base for the Marlins. The Mariners converted him to a center fielder (he has looked great in spring training). He will be hitting leadoff and has the potential to set a Mariner stolen-base record — which stands at 61. Gordon swiped 60 bags last year in Miami.
The Mariners picked up a slugger in Ryon Healy from the Oakland Athletics, who will add even more power to a strong power-hitting lineup of Robinson Canó, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. And it looks like the Mariners are finally set at catcher. Mike Zunino had a strong season last year at the plate and behind it.
While the current lineup looks encouraging, it doesn’t mean anything until the players take the field.
Still, Opening Day gives Mariners fans (and those who cheer for the other 29 teams) a chance to dream — at least for a few days — that they will be contenders.