Retirement plan laws in Hawaii: Hawaii Saves

10 MIN READEditorial Policy

Key Takeaways

  • While the state of Hawaii initially introduced state-sponsored retirement legislation in 2019, it did not pass.

  • But in May 2022, it was announced that Hawaii had approved a state-run IRA program

  • Unlike other states that include an auto-enroll IRA feature, Hawaii's program will allow employees the choice to participate

Throughout the United States, more states are addressing the retirement crisis head-on with a state-sponsored plan that covers workers without access to workplace retirement. It’s estimated that nearly half of Hawaii’s private-sector employees (roughly 216,000) don't have access to an employer-provided retirement plan. What's more, nearly two-thirds of small business owners in Hawaii said they don’t offer a retirement savings plan and agreed that the state should do more to encourage residents to save for retirement.

The road to retirement savings legislation for Hawaii has been bumpy. Initial legislation proposing a state-provided retirement program was defeated in 2019 due to a legislative stalemate. However, in May 2022, it was announced that Hawaii had approved a state-run IRA program. Unlike many states that offer an automatic enrollment IRA, enrollment is slated to be voluntary.

Does your Hawaii business qualify for 401(k) tax credits?

Learn if starting a plan comes with tax incentives.

Where Hawaii’s state-sponsored retirement plan stands in 2022

Two pieces of legislation, SB1374 and HB1189, were originally introduced by Hawaii’s Senate and House of Representatives in 2019. The overall plan was known as Hawaii Saves Retirement Savings Program, but was more commonly referred to as “Hawaii Saves” because it was modeled after OregonSaves, the state-sponsored savings program from the State of Oregon. SB1374, and by extension HB1189, were defeated in the 2019 due to insufficient time provided for the House and Senate to reconcile their respective versions of the bill. 

The Hawaii Retirement Savings Task Force delivered a report to state legislation in December 2021 to recommend reconsidering an IRA program. SB3289 SD2 HD2 was introduced in early 2022 to establish the Hawaii retirement savings program. Hawaii approved its state-run IRA program in May 2022. Unlike other states who have implemented mandatory, automatic enrollment IRA programs, Hawaii’s version is voluntary and will allow employees to choose if they want to participate.

The current bill outlines the goal to establish a Hawaii retirement savings board that will implement and administer the program. The board has the ability and duty to design, establish, implement, and maintain a program that:  

  • Is in accordance with best practices for retirement savings vehicles;

  • Encourages participation, saving, sound investment practices, and appropriate selection of default investments;

  • Maximizes simplicity and ease of administration for employers;

  • Minimizes costs, including by collective investment and other measures to achieve economies of scale and other efficiencies in program design and administration;

  • Promotes portability of benefits; and

  • Avoids preemption of the program by federal law

The bill heads to the Hawaii Governor David Y. Ige, who has until July 12 to sign it into law or veto it (however, we should receive a decision by June 27).

What is the future of retirement in Hawaii?

Support for a state-sponsored option appears to remain strong. According to an AARP survey from 2021, 73% of Hawaii small business owners think more should be done to encourage state residents to save for retirement—with nearly half saying “a lot more should be done.” 63% are concerned about their employees not having enough money to cover health care or living expenses when they retire. To that extent, 83% of respondents believed that lawmakers should support a state-provided savings option, and 82% support a Hawaii retirement.

Alternative retirement options for small business owners in the state of Hawaii

Hawaii currently doesn’t offer a state-sponsored saving plan for employees without access to them through an employer—including part-time employees, other nontraditional employees, and those who are unemployed. However, there are other options for small business owners that want to offer retirement plans but don’t want to wait for the state to pass legislation.

Learn more about Hawaii Saves Program alternatives:

Solo 401(k) Plan

Solo 401(k) plans allow self-employed individuals or business owners with no employees to save for retirement using tax-deferred dollars. While the IRS requirements state participants may not have employees, it makes an exception for spouses. The IRS considers an individual with a Solo plan both an employer and an employee, so it allows higher savings rates than other non-traditional retirement savings options. 

  • Allowable annual contributions are $23,000 in 2024 ($22,500 in 2023), or $30,500 in 2024 ($30,000 in 2023) if age 50 or over. 

  • Additionally, as an employer, a participant may make nonelective contributions up to 25% of compensation as defined by the plan, and as an employee can make them subject to a special computation.

While some small business owners favor these higher limits, the eligibility requirements are prohibitive for most small businesses and even many of the self-employed individuals the plans are designed to serve.


A SEP-IRA offers a retirement solution for businesses of any size, including sole proprietors, partnerships, and corporations, and even the self-employed. Employees are eligible if they are age 21 or older and have worked for you in three of the last five years and have earned at least $750 in 2023 ($650 in 2021 and 2022). 

  • As an employer, you can contribute up to 25% of compensation annually or a maximum set by the IRS (whichever amount is less) of $66,000 for 2023 ($61,000 for 2022). 

  • Employees are immediately 100% vested in all contributions.

Some employers like the SEP-IRA because there are no administrative requirements beyond completing Form 5305 SEP and providing it to all employees as they become eligible for participation. One drawback to these plans is the length of time required for employees to become eligible, especially with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting the average American holds a job for 4.1 years.


The SIMPLE IRA is a relatively flexible and low-cost traditional IRA for businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Employers can offer either a matching contribution to their employee’s retirement account or make nonelective contributions. Employees may also choose to make salary reduction contributions to their own accounts.

Pros of the SIMPLE IRA include immediate employee vesting, low cost to start, and tax benefits associated with employer contributions, while cons include lower contribution limits and higher withdrawal penalties.

A 401(k) designed for small businesses

The Solo 401(k), SEP-IRA, and SIMPLE IRA cover only a fraction of the 216,000 Hawaiian workers without access to a retirement savings plan through their employer, and IRAs lack the matching incentives employers are able to offer through 401(k)s. There are other opportunities for small business owners to offer affordable retirement plans to their employees.

Small business owners in Hawaii looking to find ways of offering a retirement plan to their team right now should consider a 401(k) with Human Interest. While traditional 401(k) plans often overlook small businesses and their employees, modern 401(k) solutions such as ours take significant administrative and manual work off the plate. Plus, with Human Interest’s flexible plan design, you can find a solution that fits your needs.

The bottom line: Stay informed and shop around for alternatives

We may see a future in which Hawaii reintroduces a state-provided retirement program for approval. But if you’re looking forward to starting a state-sponsored plan in the near future, you’ll need to explore other options. Take action now and start shopping around for ways to provide a much-needed retirement-saving option for your employees. 

Low-cost 401(k) with transparent pricing

Sign up for an affordable and easy-to-manage 401(k).

We believe that everyone deserves access to a secure financial future, which is why we make it easy to provide a 401(k) to your employees. Human Interest offers a low-cost 401(k) with automated administration, built-in investment education, and integration with leading payroll providers.

Related Articles

Subscribe to our Retirement Roadmap newsletter

Retirement isn’t just a destination. It’s a journey, and we’re here to help you. Our newsletter delivers succinct and timely tips, reviewed by Financial Advisors, to help you navigate the path to financial independence.

By providing your email above or subscribing to our newsletter, you agree to our Privacy Policy. You also elect to receive communications from Human Interest.