NJ Chooses Insecurity

Enacted by state legislators and Gov. Phil Murphy in 2019, the New Jersey Secure Choice Savings Program was supposed to make IRA-type retirement funds available to state residents who work at private businesses with 25 or more workers.

This was supposed to be a windfall for those of us in the pension administration business anticipating employers who would not trust the state to secure pensions for their employees to set up their own private plans. However, the state has been missing deadlines and according to an article in northjersey.com, it may never happen.

The state missed the law’s original starting date of March 28, 2021, citing the pandemic for the delay. Another March deadline came and went this year, and it’s unclear when benefits will be available, said Luis De La Hoz, a member of the state board charged with overseeing the program. His hope is for Secure Choice to be available by January, though even that could be an ambitious timeline.

A spokesperson for Gov. Murphy said there is no timeline for when the program would start.

The stalled rollout has triggered confusion, said Eli Fried, a financial advisor who has spoken at several of the board’s meetings. Some businesses have heard from lawyers pressuring them to “join this plan that doesn’t [exist],” said Fried, CEO of Leatherback Investments, based in Lakewood. “It created a bit of a panic in certain circles. The website only went up a couple weeks ago.”

At a March 11 meeting of Secure Choice’s board this year, New Jersey Assistant Treasurer Andrea Spalla said the goal was to “implement the program as close to March of 2022 as possible,” but “the board should not and does not intend to cut corners,” according to board documents. With such a lengthy to-do list, Freiman, the Assembly sponsor, said he does not expect the program to roll out for at least another year. Estimating the number of companies or workers who will join has been difficult, he added, given the constant churn in the business world, with employers opening and folding regularly. 

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