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Janneli Miller is worried about having enough money for retirement. 

"I am 59 years old and have absolutely no retirement savings at all," Miller says.

Miller is an adjunct professor and has taught at various public and private institutions over the years. She’s just enrolled in a retirement plan with her new employer, Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., but she doesn’t have retirement plans from her previous jobs to fall back on. And, in 2008 when the stock market fell, she lost much of the little money she had saved.

"What I consider to be my retirement right now is I do own a home," she says. "And I pretty much figure that that’s my retirement."

Miller is not alone in facing serious questions about how she’ll live comfortably in retirement. The Bell Policy Center, a nonprofit research group based in Denver that identifies itself as "progressive," has a new study out. It finds that nearly 1 million Coloradans of prime working age (25-64) employed in the private sector don’t have retirement plans through their employers.

In most cases, it’s because their employers don’t offer plans. According to the study, Retirement at Risk45 percent of private-sector employees in prime working age work for an employer that doesn’t offer retirement savings plans  and that number has been rising. Rich Jones, director of policy research at the Bell Policy Center, says such plans have long been an important part of the retirement puzzle for most people. As their slow disappearance continues, he says, it will spell big trouble for Coloradans in the future.

Low-income workers are disproportionately affected. According to the study, 74 percent of workers who earn less than $21,000 annually have no workplace retirement plan. That helps perpetuate a cycle of financial insecurity, Jones says. When families are able to get ahead, it's often because one generation helps the next by passing on assets or paying for college.

The Bell Policy Center is encouraging the Colorado Assembly to take a closer look at the issue. Jones testified at a hearing on Tuesday in favor of House Bill 1377, which would create a task force in the legislature "to produce recommendations to increase the percentage of Colorado residents that have retirement security." The bill states: "Coloradans are less prepared for retirement today than in previous decades, and the overwhelming majority of people in the state are concerned about their ability and their children's ability to retire."
Other states are taking similar action, with California taking the most decisive action so far, according to Jones. In 2012, California passed a law requiring the state to study whether to administer a retirement plan for people who don't have access to such savings vehicles through their employers. 
Jones says there is a good reason why some employers don't offer retirement plans: they're too small. 
"Small employers are working 24/7 on their business, so setting up a retirement plan for their employees or even themselves is really complicated and time-consuming," Jones says. "And it could be more expensive for that small business to run the program. So employers will say, 'I’d like to do this, but I don’t think I can.' So they don’t offer it."
Employees of small businesses in Colorado are even less likely than other private sector workers to have access to retirement plans at work. Jones' study found that 81 percent of workers in businesses with 10 and fewer employees do not have workplace retirement plans.
Jones says public policy groups as diverse as the Center for Economic and Policy Research on the left and the Heritage Foundation on the right have suggested making available some kind of universal retirement account, making it easier for people to put away money and make investments.
Colorado House Bill 1377 passed through the House Appropriations Committee and moved on to the Legislative Council. It will have to be passed by the full House before going to the Senate.