Two leading think tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Retirement Security Project, have proposed payroll-funded IRAs as a way of meeting the retirement needs of the 71 million American workers who don't have the option of investing in a 401(k) plan. That's nearly half of the 153 million workers in America.

They also propose that workers be automatically enrolled and that contributions to the IRA be made via direct-deposit payroll installments to a low-cost, diversified IRA account. To encourage small companies to offer an "automatic IRA," the government would give them a tax incentive.

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