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Vada Waters Lindsey, Encouraging Savings Under the Earned Income Tax Credit: A Nudge in the Right Direction, 44 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 83 (2010)

Source Publication

44 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 83 (2010)


During 2007, 3.6 million or 9.7% of people in the United States age 65 or older were below the poverty level. In light of the number of elderly people living below the poverty level, it is important that everyone, including low-income workers, have the opportunity to save for retirement. Low-income workers face many challenges to saving for retirement. The barriers to saving include the lack of access to retirement plans and lack of investment savvy. For example, only 42% of workers employed in service occupations in the private industry have access to employer retirement plans. The percentage drops to 39% for part-time employees.

This Article proposes that the earned income tax credit (EITC) be expanded to encourage saving to help reduce the poverty level. The Article argues that the EITC should be structured to “nudge” low-income workers to invest in retirement plans and individual retirement accounts to lower the likelihood that they will live below the poverty level at retirement. The Article then discusses the importance of saving and the ways in which the government has encouraged lower income workers to accumulate wealth. Because these efforts have not succeeded in increasing the savings rate of low-income workers, the government must take additional measures to encourage them to save. This Article outlines a detailed plan for the adoption of a saving component to the EITC and outlines the importance of automatic contributions in conjunction with the EITC to maximize the success of the saving component. The plan also includes a government match in certain circumstances but requires forfeiture of the match for early withdrawals.

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