has an interesting column for the New York Times today on how we can promote savings for renters. Homeownership, he acknowledges, is a method of “forced savings”: “Every month, you write a check to the bank, part of which goes to pay interest, and part of which goes to reduce the balance of your loan. Over time, you own more of the home. In a country that doesn’t save enough, forced saving is a real virtue of owning a home.” Renters miss out on that built-in wealth-building opportunity.
Barro goes on to present a creative idea to help renters save too: “Why not also allow landlords to participate in myRA, with tenants able to roll a retirement savings contribution into their rent checks?” MyRA is a proposal from the Obama administration that would improve access to retirement savings accounts through the workplace for employees who are currently underserved. (MyRA also happens to be the topic of a new policy paper that my colleagues put out this week, which you should read here
I agree with Barro that building a savings option into the act of paying rent is a good idea. Automation helps people do something they likely wouldn’t consciously do otherwise. In fact, it’s such a good idea that the federal government has been doing something very similar for over 20 years, through its Family Self-Sufficiency Program