What state-mandated plans could mean for your small business

Increasingly, states are requiring that businesses provide retirement plans to employees. Learn if you may need to enroll in one of these state-mandated plans.

Increasingly, states are requiring that businesses provide retirement plans to employees. Learn if you may need to enroll in one of these state-mandated plans.

State-mandated retirement plans are on the rise due to local and state legislation requiring businesses to provide retirement benefits to their employees. With the growing number of private workers not having access to these crucial benefits, many states decided they had to act. In 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance to support the states effort to help promote retirement benefits within their respective states.

What are state-mandated retirement plans?

When we talk about “state-mandated plans,” what we mean is that, increasingly, more and more states have passed legislation that require businesses to provide retirement benefits for their employees. In these states, the employer has the option of enrolling their employees in the state-sponsored program or sponsor their own workplace retirement plan offered by providers like Betterment.

A state-sponsored plan is typically an individual Retirement Account (IRA) in which the employer sets up for their participants to contribute. Certain features may differ between states so it’s a good idea to check in with your state's specific program.

Is a state-mandated retirement plan required for my company and what is the deadline to register?

Legislation is continuously being updated for each respective state and new states are emerging with future plans to offer this. To date, we’ve tried to provide resources as enough information becomes available on Betterment’s website. You can find more details on states like California, New York, Oregon and Illinois at the links provided.

In most states, the mandate only applies if an employer meets certain criteria, such as having been in business for at least 2 years and having greater than 9 employees, as an example.

If you have questions, it’s best to reach out to a representative of your state directly or consult your state’s retirement website (if applicable).

That said, a state-mandated plan might not be the best plan for your business. Read on to learn more of the pros and cons.

What are the benefits of a state-mandated retirement program?

  • Registration to the program can be relatively quick
  • They have limited employer responsibilities & fees
  • No fiduciary responsibility for the employer
  • Participants gain access to retirement benefits for a modest fee
  • Automatic features can force savings (from which employees can opt out)

What are the downsides of a state-mandated retirement program?

  • Deferral limits are much lower than 401(k) plans
  • Employees not able to defer taxes if state plan only utilizes Roth
  • May offer limited financial wellness tools compared to 401(k) providers like Betterment
  • May not be as flexible compared to a 401(k) plan
  • Program may not be as competitive with other retirement vehicles for talent acquisition
  • Missed deadlines can cause penalties to the employer

Overall, state-mandated programs are a good push to increase the overall percentage of workers who have access to retirement benefits. As of 2021, 32% of private industry workers do not have any access to retirement benefits. If you are or will be required to offer your employees retirement benefits as a result of a state mandate, please know that you have options in setting up your company’s retirement plan and we are here to help.

So, what should I do?

For any employer who is concerned with attracting and retaining talent in today’s market, offering a 401(k) has become a table stakes benefit. At the end of the day, state mandated plans are designed to help employees save for retirement, but they may lack some of the benefits that offering a 401(k) plan affords.

In order to compete for talent, but also to benefit your business’s bottom line with tax savings, we recommend thinking about designing a more thoughtful retirement option that will help you and your employees in the long run. Want to talk about how? Get in touch.