NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Move over Individual Retirement Account, or IRA; there's a new girl in town, and her name is MyRA. One of the little nuggets garnered from last night's State of the Union address was that President Obama, via executive order, will direct the U.S. Treasury to create a new retirement account, called "my retirement account", or "MyRA." The stated intention is to encourage more workers to save, especially those that don't have access to a retirement savings vehicle through their employer.
While details are sketchy at this point -- and, of course, the devil is in those details -- we do know that the MyRA will be U.S. government-backed and will be offered via Roth IRA accounts. That being the case, contributions will not be tax deductible, the way traditional IRAs are, but there will be no tax on the proceeds in retirement, the primary feature that makes the Roth IRA so compelling.
In his speech, the president described the MyRA as a "new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg." He went on to say that the MyRA "guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in." I wonder what the president's definition of "decent return" is?
Encouraging retirement savings or any savings for that matter is a good thing. However, the MyRA looks like another gimmick, and one that does not really offer substantial benefits beyond what employees already have. The segment of the population that the MyRA is geared toward already has the ability to open a Roth IRA, and in many cases a Traditional IRA.
It does appear, however, that the MyRA will allow for larger contributions, up to $15,000 per year. The 2014 contribution limit for Roth and Traditional IRAs is $5,500 ($6,500 if youre age 50 or older).
The notion of a guarantee of never losing principal may seem like an attractive feature. But the president called the MyRA a "savings bond." From the sound of it, the returns will likely be very low, and may not keep pace with inflation. Keep in mind, in this low interest rate environment, EE savings bonds issued between now and April 30 pay .1% interest. (However, after 20 years, EE bonds are guaranteed by the Treasury to double in value, regardless of their rate.) Perhaps the Treasury will create a higher-yielding vehicle for the MyRA, yet another detail to be worked out.
A key component of growing retirement savings is to have exposure to riskier assets like stocks that will provide greater returns over time. That helps grow assets faster than lower-yielding and lower-risk fixed income investments.
The fear of losing money in the markets is very real for many that could not sleep during the 2008 meltdown, and that could be part of the reason for this push to "safer" accounts with government guarantees, such as the MyRA. But that alone will not get the job done.