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The Illinois Secure Choice Retirement Program: Everything You Need to Know

The Illinois Secure Choice Retirement Program: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated: April 12, 2024

The Prairie State is harvesting opportunities for a secure retirement.

According to PwC's Retirement in America, one in four Americans has yet to save a single dollar for their retirement years. Moreover, approximately 30 million retirees are projected to live in poverty or close to it by 2035. That's why Illinois launched the Secure Choice Retirement Savings program. It creates a way to make it easy and automatic for workers to save money for their golden years.

In this article, we’ll answer some questions you may have about the Illinois Secure Choice program and explain how it affects Illinois businesses.

How Does Illinois Secure Choice Work?

Illinois Secure Choice is a government-sponsored savings program created to help employees working in Illinois build savings for retirement. Illinois business owners who meet certain criteria are required by law to offer a qualified, employer-sponsored retirement plan or enroll their employees in the program.

Illinois employees can make contributions to the program through automatic deductions from their paycheck into a Roth individual savings account (Roth IRA) unless they choose to opt out. The money in the account grows tax-free, and employees won't have to pay income tax on any money they withdraw from their account during retirement.

Illinois Secure Choice is overseen by the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Board and administered by private-sector partners. The program launched in 2018.

Which Businesses Are Affected?

According to the Illinois Secure Choice website, employers who meet the following criteria are required to register for the program or certify an exemption:

  • Have 5 or more employees
  • Have been in operation for at least two years
  • Do not offer a qualified, employer-sponsored retirement plan

Registration Deadline

Program deadlines for businesses are based on company size, and they have all passed. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Employers with 500 or more employees | November 1, 2018 (deadline passed)
  • Employers with 100 to 499 employees | July 1, 2019 (deadline passed)
  • Employers with 25 to 99 employees | November 1, 2019 (deadline passed)
  • Employers with 15 to 24 employees | November 1, 2022 (deadline passed)
  • Employers with 5 to 14 employees | November 1, 2023 (deadline passed)

Eligible employers will be notified when it's time to register or certify their exemption.


Enforcement for select noncompliant employers with 25 or more employees began in 2023. These businesses may face the following penalties:

  • A $250 penalty per eligible employee for the first calendar year of non-compliance
  • A $500 fine per employee for each subsequent calendar year of non-compliance

Who Is Eligible to Save With the Illinois Secure Choice Program?

Any individual who is 18 years or older and has income/W-2 wages in the state of Illinois is eligible to participate in Illinois Secure Choice. Seasonal and part-time employees are eligible, though there may be limitations for those who work fewer than 60 days with an employer.

The program is voluntary for employees, and they can change their contribution amount or opt-out at any time.


The Illinois Secure Choice program represents a notable development in retirement planning for Illinois workers. Automatic enrollment and contributions made directly through payroll deductions simplify the process of setting aside funds for retirement.

The program requires businesses that have been in operation for at least two years and have five or more employees to either offer a plan or certify an exemption, so it’s important for Illinois employers to familiarize themselves with the program details and requirements.

Looking for information on the requirements for other states? Check out our resource page here.

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