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When people struggle to get by, it’s hard to think about saving for later

Dante Ramos is exactly right when he points out that far too few Americans are saving enough for retirement (“Should the government force citizens to save money?” Ideas, Nov. 15). It is far better for employers to offer retirement plans that are opt-out, rather than opt-in, and right now, far too few employers offer any retirement plan at all.

Yet should government really force these workers to save now for retirement later, as Ramos suggests is an option? Maybe, but it is worth remembering that American society is far kinder to low-income seniors than to low-income workers in the prime of life — most notably, low-income parents.

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From property tax circuit breakers for seniors to senior housing to Social Security and Medicaid, the nation has done much — although Ramos is right, not enough — to make life better for people in their golden years. Meanwhile, for a low-income parent, every dollar saved is one less dollar that can be used to feed a child or pay the rent or spend on community college to get new skills.

Taking 3 percent out of a low-income working person’s paycheck now to support retirement down the road is only a good idea if it goes hand in hand with efforts to make sure that those wages are high enough that the worker can afford to go without those precious dollars now.

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So, bully for mandatory savings. But let’s have that $15 minimum wage, or some other way to boost workers’ incomes, right now.

Avi Green

Cambridge

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