AUBURN — One in three Mainers over retirement age relies entirely on Social Security for income, according to information from the Office of the State Treasurer. As inflation eats more and more into family budgets, it’s getting harder for many retirees to keep up with the rising costs for food, heating and other necessities, which is why retirement savings accounts are increasingly important for today’s workforce.

AARP data shows that nearly one-half of private sector workers in this state don’t have access to a retirement savings account, but that is about to change. Starting in late January, all employers with five or more employees who do not offer access to a retirement savings plan will now have to.

“It is a concern, as people get older and do not have the resources for a dignified and pleasant retirement,” Elizabeth Bordowitz told members of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 9 at the organization’s monthly breakfast.

Bordowitz is the executive director of the Maine Retirement Investment Trust, or MERIT, which will administer the program signed into law June 2021 by Gov. Janet Mills.

Retirement Savings

Elizabeth Bordowitz, executive director of Maine Retirement Savings Investment Trust, explains the new law to members of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 9 at the Hilton Garden Inn. Christopher Wheelock/Sun Journal

It does not cost employers anything, in fact they cannot contribute through this program.



Employees must be 18 years old or older and have a Social Security number to be eligible for the program, both federal requirements.

Full-time, part-time and seasonal employees are all eligible for the MERIT savings plan. In fact, if they leave a job, they can continue to contribute to their account. The plan follows them, similar to a conventional IRA that anyone can open.

Starting in 2024, employees in Maine will be automatically enrolled in a Roth IRA, at a rate of 5% of their wages. Employees can opt out entirely or change the contribution rate and choose from the available funds to invest in.

The contributions will be made directly to MERIT through payroll deductions.


Starting in late January, all employers who do not offer a qualified retirement plan with five employees or more, who have been in business for two years or more, are required to register through MERIT and will receive a letter from MERIT to do so.


Employers must register on the MERIT portal.

Employers who offer a qualified retirement savings plan like a 401(k) or a 403(b) are exempt from the new requirements, but may still have to register their exemption through the MERIT portal.

Seasonal and part-time employees count toward an employer’s number of employees, but don’t need to be registered until they have worked for 120 days.

“Our goal is to work with the payroll processors … to make this as seamless as possible,” Bordowitz said.

Some key dates for the MERIT timeline:

January 2024: MERIT portal becomes available to all employers.


April 30, 2024: Employers of 15 or more employees must register employees by this date.

June 30, 2025: Employers of 5 or more employees must register employees by this date.

Employers who do not register their employees are subject to enforcement action by the Office of the State Attorney General starting in 2025.


For assistance and more information, employers can visit the MERIT portal at or

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