Thoughts on Oregon’s Approach to Retirement Readiness

By Jessica Junke

While political uncertainty continues to consume us at both the local and national level, it’s important to take moments to remind ourselves of the many ways Oregon continues to demonstrate leadership in the asset building field.

July 1 marked a monumental moment in our state’s history: this is the month that we launched Oregon Saves, a universal retirement platform for folks who do not have access to safe and affordable retirement plans through their employers. Oregon Saves is building their piece of the solution to the looming retirement crisis through intentional collaboration and community engagement. While this took more time than other paths forward, we believe that the solution Oregon Saves ended up with is much stronger because they asked critical questions of the right people, listened, and implemented the project with those answers in mind. This is not an easy task in this current environment, and we applaud their efforts.

AARP Oregon, one of our key partners, has been a champion on many political issues affecting the household financial stability of aging Oregonians with lower incomes. AARP recognizes the importance of intersectionality in their advocacy, rather than focusing solely on retirement readiness from the savings lens they know aging Oregonians must also have access to stable housing, healthy food, and affordable healthcare. While Oregon’s 2017 legislative session was disappointing particularly for Oregonians who rent their homes, we would not have been able to get as far as we did without AARP’s steadfast partnership advocating for housing security for all Oregonians. This intersectionality must continue to lead us if we hope to navigate these uncertain times with integrity and success.

On a smaller scale, but no less significant, the Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative has entered our second year of our own IDA retirement pilot rollout. Oregon continues leading the country as we expand how we think about plugging IDAs in to different state and local systems. With this pilot, Oregonians are now able to use an IDA to jumpstart their retirement savings. CASA of Oregon launched the first year of the pilot, and partnered with Oregon Saves to ensure we were coordinating our parallel efforts in moving Oregon to a more equitable retirement readiness position.

Creating new programs and policies are challenging in so many ways, bringing with them their own level of uncertainty. For the most part, Oregon has proven to be filled with people who rather than turning away from uncertainty and denying the possibility of change, we embrace it by saying that no matter what hard lessons we may learn along the way, this is worth it. Working together is worth it. Caring for our aging community members is worth it. Stability for all Oregon families is worth it.

We look forward to continuing to learn and grow with you as we work to build equitable paths to opportunity for all Oregonians across the lifespan.