MyRA, worth a try: Obama has a sound idea to help Americans save

More Americans are confident they have enough money saved for retirement, but too many still can't afford to feel that way.

A survey released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute said that 55 percent of workers - more than last year - are somewhat confident or very confident that they've saved enough for a comfortable retirement. Yet 36 percent of the respondents said they have less than $1,000 set aside.

To help workers save more, President Barack Obama is directing the Treasury Department to develop starter savings accounts that are similar to Roth IRAs or Individual Retirement Accounts. The so-called MyRAs deserve a fair trial.

The accounts are intended for low-wage earners whose employers do not offer 401(k) plans and who may not be able to afford the minimum amounts required to open standard retirement accounts. Since the president proposed MyRA accounts in his State of the Union message in January, critics have attacked the plan, saying the accounts' projected growth rate is too low, that they do not offer access to the stock market, do not include an employer match and merely represent a new way for the government to borrow money.

But for Americans with modest incomes and no access to other savings plans at work, MyRA accounts can enforce the value of delayed gratification, which is at the heart of every successful savings effort. And they will offer a comparatively painless way to do that.

Under Obama's proposal, MyRA accounts can be opened for as little as $25; employees can sign up for automatic payroll deductions of as little as $5 per payday. MyRA contributions will be taxed up front, so they can be withdrawn at any time, a Treasury spokesman said.

The Treasury will back MyRA accounts. Their balance is guaranteed never to go down, unlike retirement accounts linked to the stock market. They will earn interest at the same variable rate that federal employees get from their savings plan.

More details remain to be worked out, but the MyRA idea is a safe and reliable way for many Americans to start saving.

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 19


Border fence not same as reform

If and when immigration reform is reprised, talk of "the fence" will spout as reliably as Old Faithful.

Consider, then, the difficult experience of just one part of the 56 miles of the existing border fence and wall in the Rio Grande Valley. An Express-News article Nelsen spelled it out.

The Rio Grande meanders. Its banks are sometimes here, sometimes there. Other factors, including environmental, intrude.

But what is immediately separated from the United States at the Sabal Palms Sanctuary is the United States. As Nelsen explained, no passport is required to pass through its gates. In some places, more than a mile separates the fence, built on top of the levee, from the river. In between is the same farmland that predates the fence.

But also there, residents say, is a "no-go" land in which scrutiny — of the Border Patrol and those who cross the river without documents or with drugs and other contraband — is difficult.

Yet proponents of more border security have, in the past, blithely suggested more fence. Some suggest one continuous 1,950 mile fence from the Pacific to the Gulf. Others a mere 350 miles of double fencing. There are now 651 miles, which includes 352 miles of barrier to thwart pedestrians and 299 miles to block vehicles.

Now, imagine about 1,200 miles more — if a completely walled off Mexico is your taste. And since much of this would be in Texas, along the Rio Grande, picture the fence as having to separate much of Texas from Texas.

Picture also the cost along the entire length of the U.S. Mexico border: $185 million for a standard 10-foot chain-link fence topped by razor wire.

There is a better way to control and regulate immigration. A fence isn't it.

—San Antonio Express-News, March 13