For example, some private-sector plans have a tax benefit for the employer that CalSavers does not. On the other hand, CalSavers would not necessitate an annual audit – required by federal law for plans with 100 or more eligible participants – which can cost in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 each year.

In short, you’ve got to climb the decision tree to get to the limb that’s best for you.

Did I mention that there should be some good to come from all this? As you may know, various sources have long lamented that a surprising number of working Americans are staring at retirement poverty. A shocking survey from the National Institute on Retirement Security a few years ago claimed the median retirement-account balance for near-retirement households was $14,500. Yikes.

The CalSavers literature says that 7.5 million state residents now have no access to a workplace retirement savings plan. So if this new law pushes millions of Californians into a pattern of saving for their retirement, then it will indeed do some good.

And the hassle for employers would be teeny compared to the enormous social benefit it could provide.

Charles Crumpley is editor and publisher of the Business Journal. He can be reached at