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What is the Colorado Secure Savings Program? And What Does it Mean for My Restaurant? May 03,2022


The Colorado Secure Savings Program is a forthcoming, mandatory retirement savings program for private-sector workers who currently do not have access to workplace retirement savings plans. Private-sector employers like restaurants can enroll in the state plan at no cost. We continuously receive questions from restaurant operators across the state about this program and want to help you navigate its integration as seamlessly as possible. 

We partnered with experts from the Colorado Department of Treasury (CDT) to cover the basics of the Secure Savings program, including the timeline for rollout, what to expect from the pilot program, what you should be doing now to prepare, and what you can expect to do in 2023 when enrollment begins in this webinar. 

Below are the most frequently asked questions, provided by CDT: 

  • As an employer, am I required to participate if I already offer a retirement plan to my employees?
    • No. Employers already offering a retirement plan are in compliance with the requirements of the Colorado Secure Savings Program. The goal of the Program is to increase retirement savings for those who do not have access to a plan, not disrupt businesses that already offer a comparable benefit to their employees.

  • Are employers required to participate?
    • Certain employers are mandated to participate. Employers with five or more employees, who have been in business for two years or more, and who do not currently offer a retirement plan to employees are required to register and enroll employees.
    • While there will be penalties in the future for employers who do not comply, employers will be informed of enrollment deadlines and have sufficient time to meet the requirements before any penalties are incurred.
    • The Colorado Secure Savings Board is sensitive to the needs of our state’s businesses, especially as they continue to recover from the public health crisis. Design and implementation of the program will work to minimize any impact to participating employers. This includes grant opportunities to offset facilitation costs to qualifying businesses.

  • Will the State use people’s money from this program to pay for other programs, like PERA?
    • No. Funds contributed through payroll deduction and individual distributions will be directly remitted to the Colorado Secure Savings Program on behalf of account holders, and go directly into their IRA accounts. Accounts are not accessible to the State for other purposes, and are not tied to any other retirement plans offered by the State, including PERA.

  • Is this related to PERA?
    • No, the program is not related to PERA in any way. It is not a pension plan. It is for private sector employees to save their own money in their own individual accounts.

  • Is the Colorado Secure Savings Program meant to replace private sector retirement plans?
    • No, the Colorado Secure Savings Program is not meant to replace or compete with existing employer-sponsored plans. Retirement plans are expensive and complicated for employers to administer. Consequently, many employers do not offer this benefit. The Colorado Secure Savings Program is meant to help employers who don’t have the time, money, or resources to offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan to their employees.

  • How is this program different from other plans like 401(k) or an IRA?
    • The Colorado Secure Savings Program Board will be designing the program to include some of the best features of employer plans and IRAs while lowering barriers to participation. Employers will only be required to register, provide an employee roster, and conduct payroll deductions, but have no other obligations. Employees will be automatically enrolled (with the ability to opt out), and their contributions will come from payroll deductions. Unlike employer-sponsored retirement plans, employers will not have to pay to facilitate the plans, and have no legal liability beyond facilitating employee enrollment.
    • Plans offered by the program will be subject to all the other rules and regulations of any other IRA.

  • Who manages the Program?
    • The Colorado Secure Savings Program is administered through the Colorado Department of the Treasury, and is overseen by a nine-member board that is chaired by the State Treasurer. The Board consists of experts from the business and banking communities, finance, as well as employee representatives. Additionally, the Colorado Secure Savings Program has a small staff of employees to manage day to day operations, and contracts with professional consultants to advise the program.

  • Why is the Secure Savings Program needed?
    • Over half the working population in Colorado does not have access to a retirement savings plan through their employer, are not included in their employer’s plan, or are self-employed and have to manage their own retirement planning. The retirement savings shortfall has massive implications for state and local budgets, and the long-term economic security of our residents. The Colorado Secure Savings Program leverages best practices and partnerships in the private sector to expand retirement savings while reducing administrative costs and risk for private sector employers across the state.

  • How did the state determine this was the best option?
    • In 2019, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB19-173, which created a public board tasked with studying the feasibility of an auto IRA program, the potential benefits of a state facilitated marketplace, and the cost of doing nothing. The board consisted of workers, employers, and financial professionals from across the state.
    • The board concluded that an auto IRA model administered through the Department of the Treasury provides the best avenue for closing the retirement savings gap. The recommendations noted implementing this program is the most effective option for expanding retirement savings in Colorado, and could save state and local governments $10 billion over the next 15 years. In the 2020 legislative session, the General Assembly passed SB20-200 to implement the board’s recommendations.

  • Do other states have a program like this?
    • California, Illinois, and Oregon have already begun implementing similar programs. Additionally, Connecticut and Maryland are in the process of structuring their programs, and Virginia passed legislation in 2021 to implement a program.

  • Do employers need to setup their own 401(k) or IRA plan to comply with the law?
    • No. The Colorado Secure Savings Program will be established and maintained by the state, offering employers a low cost, low obligation way to help their employees save for retirement.
    • Employer-sponsored retirement plans can be expensive, and complicated to administer. However, employers with the resources to administer their own plans are encouraged to speak with a financial services representative to determine whether participation in the program or a private plan is best for them and their employees.

  • Is the Colorado Secure Savings Program considered an employer-sponsored retirement plan?
    • No, employers are only responsible for facilitating the program for employees. Facilitation will be minimal, limited to registering, providing an employee roster, and remitting payroll deductions.

  • What will this Program cost employers who are required to participate?
    • Nothing. The program will be designed understanding that retirement plans are expensive for employers. Once employers have registered and enrolled their employees, their only obligation is to do normal payroll deductions that are remitted to the Secure Savings Program. For small employers that may incur costs in the course of registering and enrolling employees (i.e. adding another payroll item), there will grants available to offset those costs.

  • Do employers who facilitate Colorado Secure Savings enrollment have any liability for the Program?
    • According to state law, employers do not hold any liability for an employee’s decision to participate in the Colorado Secure Savings Program. Employers are also not responsible for their investment decisions, or for the performance of those investments.
    • Employers are only responsible for registering, and facilitating enrollment for their employees.

  • When will the Program be up and running?
    • The Colorado Secure Savings Program is in the initial stages of implementation, and a number of items need to be determined by the program board before employer registration and employee enrollment begins. The Program will likely be phased in over time, and include a pilot phase.
Additional questions about the program structure and implementation should be directed to cssp.general@state.co.us or contact the CRA at info@corestaruant.org.


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