I haven't started saving. Will these plans help?
The MyRA accounts were created for you and the millions of others who don't have an individual retirement account or work for a company that offers a pension or 401(k) plan. You're in good company: About 39 million households don't have such accounts, according the Investment Company Institute.
Much has been written about how woefully under-prepared these households are for retirement, and the White House is hoping these new accounts will help people like you start to set aside a nest egg.
(Read more: Obama renews long-standing, unmet economic proposals)
Great: I'm ready to start. How will these new plans help?
The White House wants to make these plans easier to set up and simpler to take with you from one job to the next. Many investment companies require a minimum of as much as $1,000 to open an account. You can open a MyRA will as little as $25.
It will also be easier for your employer to offer these accounts because the government will manage the paperwork and invest the money, saving companies the cost of hiring a plan sponsor. But unlike pensions or 401(k)s, employers won't have to make contributions to your MyRA.
That also means if you change jobs, you won't have to roll over your MyRA to your new employer's plan or keep up with multiple accounts managed by former employers. But once your MyRA balance reaches $15,000, you'll have to roll it over into a privately managed IRA.
(Read more: Obama's speech was 'small ball': Rep. Paul Ryan)
Are these better than IRA and 401(k) accounts?
Not really. Technically, these plans are going to fall under the rules for a Roth IRA, which means you'll pay tax on your contributions before you deposit the money into your MyRA. That means you'll lose the tax advantage of a traditional IRA. The original idea behind those tax rules was to let you shield income from the IRS during your peak earning years and then pay tax when you withdraw the money in retirement, often at a lower rate because your income is lower. You won't get that tax break with a MyRA