myRA, the retirement savings vehicle created by the Obama administration and announced during the President’s State of the Union address, has gotten a lot of blogger attention, most of it …unenthusiastic.

Perhaps that’s not entirely fair. Comments characterizing it as “a start, but won’t save retirement” are true so far as they go. But I think they may be missing what is most interesting about myRA: it shows a solid understanding of the behavioral barriers to saving. It is in effect, investor training wheels.

Learning to Ride

Riding a bike is easy – once you’ve actually learned how. When you are a child first learning how, your biggest barrier to success is fear of falling. Training wheels remove that fear and get you used to riding around. myRA does something similar. Consider how it directly addresses barriers to retirement savings for some people:

Fear: It’s expensive to start

It’s only $25 to open a myRA.

Fear: I don’t know who to trust

Investors can open one at work, without having to sort through competing claims from advisors or financial services firms.

Fear: Don’t I have to know a lot about investing?

There’s only one choice, based on US Treasury securities. Getting started is the point, not proving investment savvy.

Fear: I don’t want to lose money.

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