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FORTUNE — The U.S. Census Bureau is taking one big step forward in helping people save for retirement.
The agency on Monday announced the first of three mandatory retirement savings accounts for all American households. These accounts will be available starting in 2018. The accounts won’t automatically pay out in retirement. Instead, the government will have to send households a monthly payment.
The new programs represent about a quarter of one percent of the retirement savings market — those made up of money used to fund pensions for people who retired in the past and those who didn’t. By comparison, Americans make up only about 4% of the country’s workers so a sizable share of the pension market is still dominated by workers.
The new federal accounts will be available to any American who has the same savings account as a person who has already reached age 60. However, there won’t be a age at which the benefits kick in for the account holders.
The initial requirement for the new accounts is for the first month: $5,000 per person per year for the first $75,000, and $10,000 for the next $75,000.
The idea behind the mandatory retirement savings plans is that the government can help people reach the retirement age that’s available to them when other financial assistance comes. That’s the idea behind the federal work-based retirement accounts, which allow workers to pay in benefits when they’re older and receive benefits only if they continue to work. (The government also offers the employer match that can help people make ends meet.) The new tax credits are essentially making the idea redundant.
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There is likely to be some opposition to the new initiatives. A majority of Americans say that they’re struggling to save for retirement, and more than 6 in 10 think that it shouldn’t be mandatory. However, the mandate could make that more affordable for a lot of American families.
The new mandatory retirement savings plans are a step in the right direction for government efforts to help people save and retire more easily with the current system. But there are still plenty of unanswered questions about how the government would make the plans work and how it would incentivize people to get more savings into the accounts.
The government has already started to offer plans in New York,
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