SB 1234 - California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program

Enacted in 2012 through the legislation authored by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (SB 1234), the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program recognizes the need to provide retirement security for the 6.8 million Californians in lower and middle-income private-sector jobs who have no access to workplace retirement plans.

A public-private partnership, Secure Choice provides workers a portable and reliable retirement plan that serves as a vital supplement to Social Security, encouraging participation through automatic enrollment and small payroll deductions with the option of opting out. SB 1234 has been called “a model for addressing a national problem” in an editorial by the New York Times (California Takes On the Retirement Crisis).


According to a UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education report:

  • 62% of private sector workers in California do not participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan (compared to 57% in the United States). 
  • 84% of people working for employers with 25 or fewer workers do not participate in a retirement plan at work. 

Here in California, nearly one-half of workers will face significant economic hardship in retirement, with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty threshold. The most at-risk groups are young workers age 25-44 and low-income workers, but even middle-income workers will be at risk of not having enough retirement income to be self-sufficient.

Since the nation’s personal savings rate is extremely low, we are staring at something that if left unaddressed will overwhelm taxpayer-funded entitlement and other safety net programs. The lack of retirement savings affects all Californians, as seniors without sufficient savings will more likely need to rely on government assistance for basic necessities.

Social Security is the foundation of retirement income for the vast majority of retirees in California, but these payments alone, today averaging $1,261 per month, are not enough to sustain workers in retirement. Although Social Security has reduced the poverty rate among retirees in general, women and minorities are disproportionately represented among retirees living in poverty and among low-income retirees. In California, approximately 2/3 of the retirees living in poverty are women.

Fact sheet [PDF]

Press Releases:

News Clips:

For more information on the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust and the nine-member board, please visit the State Treasurer’s Office website.

To watch the archived Retirement Security Symposium at UCLA and view the presentation materials, please click here