Since many workers don't have defined-contribution plans like 401(k)s to help them save for retirement, the automatic IRA proposal backed by the Obama administration is "the best idea out there right now" for improving Americans' savings habits, says employee benefits lawyer Fred Reish of Reish & Reicher in Los Angeles. Substantial evidence shows that people save more with payroll deferral plans, but the Government Accountability Office estimates 40% of U.S. workers are employed by companies that don't offer such plans–or any plan..

That's why Reish applauds the auto IRA proposal in the administration's 2010 budget, reasoning that there should be "almost no cost" to the small and midsize companies that would use it.

Two bills on this issue are expected to be reintroduced in Congress that would require businesses that are at least two years old and have 10 or more workers to automatically enroll employees in an IRA. Employees would have a chance to opt out.

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