Report: Retirement at Risk in Colorado

Workplace retirement plans, along with Social Security and personal savings, are a critical tool for families to prepare for a secure retirement. In this report, we explore the state of retirement in Colorado.

But in Colorado, nearly 1 million private-sector workers in their prime working years do not participate in either traditional pension plans or 401(k)-type defined contribution plans at work. More than 80 percent of them work for employers who do not offer any form of retirement plan, making lack of access the No. 1 reason Coloradans do not save for retirement.

Low-wage workers, Latinos, young workers, and those who work for small businesses are among those least likely to have access to retirement plans at work. They are also less likely to participate in plans when offered.

The implications of this lack of access are troubling. A financially secure retirement should be a reward for a lifetime of work. Those who can save adequately for retirement during their working years are more likely to be self-sufficient in retirement and to pass along some assets to future generations. Those who are not able to save adequately are more likely to live in poverty and depend on family members or public assistance to make ends meet. And younger workers who have to help their parents or grandparents in retirement will be less able themselves to begin saving for retirement, perpetuating the cycle of financial instability.

This Bell Policy Center brief describes the extent to which Colorado workers have access to and participate in retirement savings plans at work. It uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, focusing on private-sector workers aged 25 to 64 who work for wages or salaries as well as self-employed workers whose businesses are incorporated. These workers comprise a majority of Colorado’s workforce.

The brief also identifies some of the reasons why so few workers have access to retirement plans and some policy options for increasing access and participation. Finally, it explores what other states are doing as well as a recent proposal to address the problem in Colorado.