Retirement reform is set for a key vote on Capitol Hill this week

A retirement reform plan known as “SECURE 2.0” is finally set to move forward on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer recently announced the addition of the bill known formally as the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022 to this week’s docket of votes.

Expanding on a landmark 2019 retirement bill, the bipartisan SECURE 2.0 aims to further expand Americans’ ability to save for retirement and increase their options for doing so. If it passes, SECURE 2.0 could be a boon for savers from people still paying student loans to retirees behind on their bills.

“SECURE 2.0 is fundamentally designed to make it easier for people to save,” Susan Neely, American Council of Life Insurers President and CEO, told Yahoo Finance Live on Monday. She added there’s “a lot going on in this bill that will be great for retirement savings and it has momentum, thank goodness.”

The bill unanimously cleared the House Ways and Means committee about 11 months ago. Despite bipartisan support, it languished as lawmakers wrangled over a separate retirement proposal that Democrats had hoped to include in the now-moribund Build Back Better Act.

Now, the resurrected SECURE 2.0 – endorsed by outside groups like AARP and the Red Cross – could be on track to pass. “I look forward to the bill passing the House with significant support from both sides of the aisle, and I hope the Senate swiftly follows our lead and sends the measure to President Biden’s desk,” House Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal (D-MA ) told Yahoo Finance in a statement.

Here are a few ways the bill could change the way Americans save for retirement.

New options for those nearing retirement

Proponents note Secure 2.0 will give retirees – who are living longer than previous generations – more flexibility as they manage a longer retirement.

For one thing, it gives workers more options for “catch-up” contributions as they near retirement, up to $ 10,000 per year. Another key provision raises the age for taking mandatory distributions from 401 (k) plans or IRAs to 75 from 72.

Some lawmakers want to take things even further with required minimum distributions. “My goal is to get rid of it completely,” Rep.Kevin Brady (R-TX) said of the age restrictions on distributions during an appearance at the Bipartisan Policy Center Solutions Summit streamed on Yahoo Finance in 2020.

On Monday, Neely also highlighted provisions that will make annuities or other lifetime income options more accessible which, she said, “can be really really helpful in rounding out your retirement.”

A recent study found that one in three adults have less than $ 5,000 in retirement savings and nearly half (46%) have taken no steps to prepare for the likelihood that they could outlive their savings.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means Rep.  Richard Neal (D-MA) (L) speaks to ranking member Kevin Brady (R-TX) during a full committee markup of H.Res.746, that will implement the agreement between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada attached as an Annex to the Protocol Replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement, in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill, December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), left, and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has teamed up to co-sponsor the “Secure 2.0” legislation. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Automatic enrollment and increased access

According to the latest government data, only about half of private sector workers participate in a retirement plan at work. Many do not participate because they have no access, but many simply have not signed up for available benefits.

To remedy this situation, the bill would push more employers to automatically enroll new employees into their company’s retirement plan if one is offered. Studies have shown that employers with auto-enrollment retirement plans have higher rates of participation.

The bill also includes inducements to help employers, particularly small businesses and nonprofits, with the daunting start-up costs of offering new plans. Employers can also receive credits for matching workers’ contributions. Currently, only 42% of part-time workers have access to a retirement plan at work.

An idea around student loans and retirement

One part of the bill that will surely get the attention of younger people would allow people to save while paying down student loans.

The idea here is to allow businesses to contribute to employees’ retirement accounts when workers make student loan payments. In other words, if you put $ 100 towards your student loan, your company could “match” it with up to $ 100 going into a retirement plan like a 401 (k).

Data from Bankrate suggests that college graduates with student loans often have to delay other priorities. Thirty-four percent report having delayed emergency savings, 23% say they have delayed buying a home, and 29% have delayed retirement savings.

In a recent webinar co-hosted by Yahoo Finance and the Bipartisan Policy Center, Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA) touted these provisions in particular as “a thing that I think everybody can get behind because it’s incentivizing people to save.”

Other provisions in the bill include changes to streamline the SAVERS credit, which lets certain lower-income workers get additional tax breaks when they save for retirement and makes it easier for military spouses to save for retirement.

The bill also provides a “clearinghouse” for employees to find lost retirement accounts through a national database. Recent studies have found that tens of thousands of retirement plans go unclaimed when workers move from company to company and lose track.

Like the 2019 Act, Secure 2.0 addresses changes to the private retirement system but does not tackle the more challenging issue of Social Security, which a recent US Treasury report found is currently projected to only pay out full benefits through 2033.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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