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Millions of American Workers Still Lack Access to 401(k)

ARLINGTON, VA (July 24, 2019) —Today the 401(k) is Main Street’s retirement plan – but tens of millions of American workers don’t have access to this opportunity.

According to a new state-by-state analysis [i] published by the American Retirement Association, more than 5 million employers in the United States still don’t offer a workplace retirement savings benefit, a generation after the 401(k) plan design was first introduced.

When a 401(k) is available, 78 percent of American workers who earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year take advantage of the opportunity.  Today more than 80 million Americans are already participating in a retirement plan where they work.

However, data also shows that workers who earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year are twelve times more likely to save at work than on their own [ii]. But today more than 28 million full-time workers don’t have an opportunity to save for retirement in a 401(k) – and that doesn’t include more than 23 million part-time workers who don’t have that opportunity.

“The 401(k) works, but only if workers have access to this critical benefit,” explains Will Hansen, Chief Government Affairs Officer for the American Retirement Association.  “Fortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives has, by an overwhelming 417-3 margin, passed the SECURE Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act), a bipartisan package of commonsense enhancements designed to help small businesses offer a retirement savings plan – and give more working Americans the opportunity to save for retirement”.

The SECURE Act helps employers provide access to this important benefit by:

  • Significantly increasing the employer tax credit for starting a new retirement plan from the current cap of $500 to $5,000.
  • Allowing employers to join a pooled employer plan, potentially lowering plan costs and administrative burdens.
  • Helping ensure more part-time employees can contribute to an employer provided retirement plan.

“The SECURE Act can give millions more Americans the opportunity to save for retirement,” noted Hansen.  “We encourage the U.S. Senate to act promptly on this important legislation.  It’s time that every working American had the opportunity that millions already do.”


About the American Retirement Association


The American Retirement Association, based in the Washington, D.C. area, is a non-profit professional organization established to empower retirement plan professionals who are dedicated to building a better retirement for Americans. The American Retirement Association is comprised of five premier retirement industry associations; the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), the ASPPA College of Pension Actuaries (ACOPA), the National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA), the National Tax-deferred Savings Association (NTSA), and the Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA).

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[i] Fact sheets detailing the national and state-by-state impact is available at

[ii] Vanguard, How America Saves 2018 (DC plan participation), EBRI estimate based on 2014 IRS SOI tabulation (IRA-only participation).