Retirement planning is a crucial aspect of financial management, and as individuals approach the golden years, exploring various retirement savings options becomes paramount. One such option gaining popularity is CalSavers.

Launched in California to address the retirement savings gap, it aims to provide a simple and accessible retirement savings platform for employees. This state-managed retirement plan is required for those employers who don’t have a 401(k) plan (employer-sponsored retirement plan) of their own in place. Let’s have a brief overview of CalSavers retirement plan and its pros and cons.

What is CalSavers?

CalSavers is a state-sponsored retirement savings program designed to assist employees who do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. It requires eligible employers to facilitate automatic payroll deductions for employees who wish to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) through CalSavers.

An individual retirement account is a savings account connected with CalSavers where the monthly payroll deductions are saved. IRA is also there if you opt to go for a 401(k) plan instead of CalSavers.

How Does CalSavers Work?

Unlike 401(k) plans, the working mechanism of CalSavers is relatively simple. Participation in CalSavers is automatic for eligible employees, who contribute a percentage of their salary to a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is a retirement savings account in which the submission money is pre-taxed. Therefore, the money in this account grows tax-free and is also tax-free during the withdrawal stages.

The contributions are made through payroll deductions, making it a convenient way for individuals to save for retirement. There is no contribution on behalf of the employers. The best part is that this state-empowered retirement plan is portable which means it will carry along even if you switch your job (within the state of California).

Furthermore, the investment options also vary in this program based on factors like risk tolerance and financial goals. So, you have the opportunity to choose the investment plan without compromising your financial responsibilities.

The Pros of CalSavers

Accessibility and Inclusivity – CalSavers

CalSavers is particularly beneficial for employees working for small businesses that may not offer traditional retirement plans. This is a great initiative by the state government of California to increase enrollment in the retirement savings plan. 

On top of this, the terms and conditions of the plan are straightforward which in turn enhances accessibility. By making retirement savings accessible to a broader demographic, CalSavers addresses the retirement gap for many Californians.

Automatic Enrollment

The program’s automatic enrollment feature takes the guesswork out of retirement planning for employees. This “set it and forget it” approach encourages consistent savings, promoting a disciplined approach to retirement preparation.

Portable Savings – CalSavers

Wherever you go, this retirement plan remains intact. CalSavers accounts are individually owned, providing portability for employees who change jobs. This feature allows for seamless transition and consolidation of retirement savings without the need to open a new account with each job change.

Low Fees and Costs

CalSavers focuses on keeping fees low, ensuring that a significant portion of the contributions goes toward building the retirement nest egg rather than being consumed by fees. This low-cost structure benefits participants over the long term.

Roth IRA Tax Advantages

Contributions to CalSavers are made on an after-tax basis, similar to a Roth IRA. While this means there are no immediate tax benefits, qualified withdrawals in retirement are tax-free, providing a potential tax advantage over time. So, the amount submitted to the IRA is already tax-deducted which makes the withdrawal phase to be tax-free.

The Cons of CalSavers

Mandatory Employer Participation

While mandatory employer participation ensures wider access, it might be viewed as a burden by some small business owners. The administrative responsibilities, although minimal, can be perceived as an additional task for businesses already managing various operational aspects.

Automatic Enrollment Opt-Out

While automatic enrollment is a pro for many, some employees might prefer to opt out due to various reasons, such as focusing on debt repayment or addressing more immediate financial needs. CalSavers’ automatic enrollment might not align with the preferences of all participants.

Limited Investment Options

CalSavers offers a limited selection of investment options, primarily targeting a conservative and diversified portfolio. While this simplicity may appeal to some, it might not suit individuals seeking more control and customization over their investment strategy. The employer-sponsored 401(k) plans often come with diverse investment options and this is the lagging point of CalSavers.

No Employer Matching Contributions

Unlike some employer-sponsored retirement plans, CalSavers does not provide employer-matching contributions. While this is not uncommon for IRA-based retirement plans, it may be a drawback for those accustomed to employer-matched contributions in 401(k) plans. The cumulative sum of employee-employer contributions in 401(k) plans creates a huge difference which most individuals don’t prefer at all.

Income Limits for Contributions

As of now, CalSavers has income limits for contributions. Higher-income individuals may find these limits restrictive, especially if they wish to contribute more to their retirement savings than the established thresholds allow. That is the major drawback for individuals who plan to save more and spend less.


CalSavers presents a viable option for individuals without access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, offering a convenient and low-cost way to save for the future. However, like any financial decision, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons based on your specific circumstances and financial goals.

As retirement planning is a highly individualized process, consulting with a financial advisor is highly recommended. Whether you choose CalSavers or opt for alternative retirement savings strategies, the key is to take proactive steps toward securing a comfortable and financially stable retirement.

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