The White House wants more states and cities to set up automated retirement plans

ByJames Dennin

At the White House Conference on Aging in July 2015, President Barack Obama called on Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to create a roadmap for states to make it easier to set up their own retirement plans. 

On Thursday Perez announced the new rules, joined by Director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients, which also include a new measure that would allow some large cities and municipalities like New York City to set up their own automated retirement accounts as well. 

The move builds on a number of White House initiatives aimed at making saving for retirement easier for people who don't have an employer-sponsored account: Workers who are automatically enrolled in their plans are 13 times more likely to save, Perez explained in a Thursday morning press call.

So far, eight states including California have passed laws creating their own state-provided retirement plans. 

Most, like California's Secure Choice Retirement Plan, are set up like a common employer provided 401(k).

Under California's plan, businesses with five workers or more can enroll their employees in a state plan, who will begin to have 2% to 5% of their paychecks automatically deducted and put into the state's retirement plan. 

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

The new rules are aimed at protecting states from concerns that their plans could be pre-empted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. They also include some new protections for consumers, such as requiring that employees can opt out if they want to. 

"We think that's important," Perez told reporters.

Making it easier for more people to save for retirement has been a key priority for Obama, who has proposed automatically enrolling American workers without access to a workplace retirement account in an IRA in every budget since taking office. 

And in April, the administration reached an agreement with the financial services industry over new changes to the "fiduciary rule" which requires that advisers act in their client's interests. 

However, one-third of Americans still have no retirement savings at all, often because their employer doesn't offer a program with automatic enrollment. 

"A workplace retirement vehicle is an indispensable pillar of retirement," Perez said on the call, explaining why so many people could be unable to retire comfortably. "We need to help them."