Comments about ‘Are 401(k)s too risky to depend on for retirement?’

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Published: Tuesday, April 30 2013 1:25 p.m. MDT

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Third try screen name
Mapleton, UT

There is a risk not covered by the article: Taxation.
Washington has their eyes on 401Ks, changing the rules in mid-stream to get more taxes from us.
Obama doesn't mind putting a limit on fees. That penalizes fat-cat Wall Street types.
Watch for the administration opening up a new revenue stream at the expense of retirees.

Salt Lake City, UT

Hopefully people have started to figure out what a scam these 401s and other retirement savings accounts are. It's nice to save money, but there is no way most people will ever be able to save enough to retire on.

You all have been sold a pack of lies.

Tooele, UT

Re: "Are 401(k)s too risky to depend on for retirement?"

They are, now that the government is eying them hungrily for confiscation and inclusion in a new Social Security Ponzi scheme.

The President is on record, saying America can no longer "afford" the "tax loss" 401(k)s pose to deranged liberal vote-buying scams.

So, it's clear liberals have identified their target. Now they're figuring out how to get control. Next, they'll debate which giant liberal toilet to flush it down.

It'll be the one they figure will buy off the largest low-information constituency. And, it'll be at the expense of the evil "rich."

Cyprus -- here we come!

Wasatch Front, UT

401(k) plans are fantastic savings vehicles for most people. Most of the negative comments on 401(k) plans likely come from folks who 1) never consistently saved 2) if they do, they often trade in-and-out of the market 3) have never made an effort to learn about the keys/risks/rewards to investing wisely, and 4) Are too often worried about the government "boogie-man".

The fact is, 401k plans are great options for many, many people: 1) Significant matching provisions often give a 50-100% virtually risk-free up front. 2) Tax-deferred or growth tax-free (for Roth 401k) mean significant tax benefits (benefits that likely won't be significantly removed for the vast majority of savers) 3) Federally protected by ERISA laws 4) Easy access to "owning a piece" of the world's best corporations and their profitability.

It's true that folks need to start early. I started in my 20's and, now in my 40's, my 401k is a significant part of my net worth. And even through the "lost decade" of the 2000's, the balance has grown substantially (growth, dividends, contributions and company match).

So learn about your plan, and get started!

DN Subscriber 2

Okay, let's ask your question a bit more precisely:
"Are 401(k)s too risky to depend on for retirement, compared to Social Security?"

Given the liberal penchant for confiscating the earnings of anyone who saves, (in order to buy the votes of those who find it easier to live on the welfare plantation than to work and same themselves) it is indeed risky to save for your own retirement.

However, it is even more risky to not be self reliant and to depend on the promises of politicians that they will take care of you, cradle to grave.

let's roll

The only thing more ludicrous than the headline is the fact that the majority of the commenters seem to agree with its laughable premise.

A 401(k) is a tax-deferred savings plan. The risks discussed in the article aren't inherent in a 401(k) but in how people invest the money (risky investments, high fees), start too late to save enough for retirement, or raid their own 401(k) account by taking out loans or early withdrawals.

If you want to be avoid all of the pitfalls mentioned in the article, start early, invest in no-fee options (you can put it in a CD, if you're completely risk averse, though the return will be pitiful) and don't take early withdrawals or loans.

If your employer offers any match, you loose money by not contributing to a 401(k).

Anyone who doesn't use a 401(k) or other self directed retirement vehicle puts their financial security in someone else's hands (government, employer) and that's never a good idea.

Wasatch Front, UT

To let's roll:

I agree with almost all of your comment. I don't believe, however, that CDs are reasonable investments for retirement funds, in most cases. When buying a CD, the saver avoids some risk (volatility, principal risk), but takes on others (inflation risk, asset growth risk). If someone has 10+ years to retirement, they will be generally much better off owning productive assets such as stocks. Stocks are a claim on the earnings of a company. IMHO, too many people worry about price volatility of the stocks. Yes, when people/markets panick, values can fall sharply. But in the long-run, share prices should track the productivity and earnings of these companies. Owning a piece of quality companies is one of the surest ways, in the long run, to secure your financial future.

Just my humble opinion, but I think its an opinion grounded by data and facts.

Own a piece of America. If the best companies in the world all go belly up, the only thing that will help much is a pile of food in your basement! CDs and other stores of value won't be worth much anyway.

one vote
Salt Lake City, UT

Risk is inherent in the free market system. If you want a nanny state don't save for retirement.

Salt Lake City, UT

carman, can you do me a favor and tell me how much you have been able to put in your 401 or other retirement savings accounts? I know that is a personal question, but seeing as we are all anonymous here. . .

The reason I ask is because I think a lot of people don't really understand how much it costs to retire. If 401s supplement a pension or government safety net, that's all cool. And clearly it is a good idea to take advantage of them, especially if you have employer matching.

But there are many people that have pushed us away from pensions because they say you can save enough. And what's worse is some people also would get rid of Medicare and Social Security.

But so lets say that a retirement account is all you have to retire on. And lets say you retire at 70 and live till 100. 30 years. How much will you need? Now remember, when you're 70 things will be more expensive. Do you know how much home health care, or nursing homes cost per month? Do you know how much an extended hospital stay is?

Say No to BO
Mapleton, UT

401ks are a great idea. Like any investment you need to manage the mix and plan on holding on for decades. We took a hit but things have bounced back nicely.
Sure, we'd like to have a pension, but there aren't many of them out there these days unless you work for government.
So, what do you do if your company doesn't offer a pension? CDs? No. Annuities? Not likely. Reverse mortgage? Not a good deal.
Social security? Not enough, and they keep changing the rules. I was hoping on 65 but they've moved the goal to 67.
An IRA of balanced Muts is as good as anything out there.
But watch greedy government that wants a piece of the action. They trashed social security and spy another pile of money they can prey on.

Springville, UT

Why would anyone invest their hard earned money into a TAX-DEFERRED program when taxes are going up???

A lot of uninformed people honestly think that investing in a 401k is tax-free, never pay taxes OR have been duped into thinking that when they retire they will be in a lower tax bracket.

Sorry it ain't happening.

As we get older we encourage our tax deductions to grow up and move and also we hope to have our homes paid for.

And then let's talk about the risks and fees.

Sorry folks... slow and steady wins the race. I get guaranteed 3.5% or more and dividends on my whole life insurance contracts... access to my money, without penalties, tax free.

Giving your money to an institution and hoping and 'ifing' that you will get your money back when you want it, when the market is up, and when your taxes are lower is delusional thinking at best.

And please don't tell me how Target Retirement funds lower your risk as you get nearer to your retirement age. All it takes is one bear market and you've lost 38% in the S&P like most people did in 2008.

South Jordan, UT

Yes they are!! Wake up people! 401K's are a very new and un-tested retirement vehicle and are proving to be a huge huge fail! Traditional financial wisdom is keeping the 99% in the 99%. If you want financial success, such as a secure retirement, look at what the 99% are doing and...do the opposite!!

Springville, UT


The only logical reason for anyone to consider a 401k is if they get a generous match. That's it. That's the only given that can maybe overcome all of the risk and maybe a person can come out a head.

Most people are uninformed, never change their investment direction and hope this works out without work. They also hope that they can control when they want their money. People get sick, people get fired or loose their jobs when they have borrowed against their 401k and this causes a double wammy on taxes.

There are just too many negatives in this volatile economy anymore to depend on something fraught with so much risk.

YOU assume all the risk. Not your company, not the 401k administrator.

If your bent on having one of these get an Investment Advisor and make sure you have an investment option that has a DEFENSIVE strategy that will yank your money out of the market when conditions are ripe for a plunge. They are out there.

Paying an IAR 2-3% for watching your money daily is easier to stomach than watching your nestegg lose 50%.

You've been warned and wisely tutored.

Salt Lake City, UT

As a financial planner, I very rarely see someone that can retire off a 401k. Let's say that miraculously that you avoided a lot of market risk and you grew it to a million. I have only seen 1 client in many, many years have this amount in their 401k by the way. Any planner will tell you don't pull out more than 5% a year to live off. That number should realistically be 4%. But lets go with 5% That puts you at $50K a year to live off. ANd then you get to pay taxes! Lets say you are in the average tax bracket of 35%. That would leave you only $32,500 a year to live off. Which is not much. So what if the market drops 20% in a year which happens. That would leave your nest egg at 800K and would allow you to pull out 40k a year and after taxes on that would leave you only 26K a year. The Frontline article was right on. For those preaching that 401ks are the way yo go, you are in straight denial.

Sasha Pachev
Provo, UT

I think you are better off investing in your children, your health, and your ability to maintain the quickness of mind in your old age. So I have eight children, program computers, run, eat healthy, and play chess. Hopefully those things combined will help me achieve the target of my investment.

I save as much as I can, I do have an employer-matched 401k, but I am not counting on it. I am planning to work until the day I die, or until I am absolutely physically incapable of doing any kind of work. Then maybe my kids can take care of me.

Charlotte, NC

The article implies that 401(k)s are homogeneous. They are not. You can make a 401(k) as safe or as risky as you want. If you have a well thought out and diverse portfolio and save 10-15% of your money (if you start in your 20s) and work into your 70s (with life expectancy ever rising, 65 is far too young to retire) you will be just fine. It isn't the 401(k) that is the problem, it is people saving too little and not knowing how to invest their money that is the problem.

george of the jungle
goshen, UT

How much value do you have in something that you don't trust or have confidence in?

Salt Lake City, UT

Really, Max? Work into your 70s, huh? A lot of places looking to hire 70 year old employees?

Wasatch Front, UT


No need to share my retirement balance. The math is simple. If you make $60k/yr average, save $700/month including employer match (10% employee contribution + 4% employer contribution) and work from age 24 to 67 (normal working life today), your balance will compound to $3.1 million. Even if you cut the balance by 60% to adjust for inflation, that leaves $1.25MM real dollars. At 5% withdrawal rate, that is $62,650/yr income, or 4.4% more than the average income during your working life. And because retirement income is not subject to Social Security taxes like wages were, it is actually 10% more than the after-tax income you had while working.

Obviously these are simplified assumptions, but they show the power of time and compounding. These numbers are not pipe-dream numbers, but they do require that you start early, are consistent, and make wise investment decisions. I can tell you that I know many people who have consistently saved and wisely invested, and they are nowhere near as cynical about the market as the average poster on this thread. If you invest more, or earn better returns, the results can be even better.


I would have to agree with what Carman has been saying. I would add to it this... When I meet with people to discuss their 401(k) I am often told by people that they just can't afford to save 10-15% of their pay right now. I tell them that is fine, but I tell them to start and then each year increase their deferral by 1%. If someone is able to do that consistently over 30 years they will be saving 30%+ of their pay. I always tell people to start and to stay disciplined. If they can start stay disciplined and increase their savings then they are going to be just fine in retirement. 401(k)'s are not broken they do in fact work if you are willing to be patient and not do detrimental things with them such as taking a hardship when you don't really have to or cashing it out. Start, discipline, increase saving diversify and everything will work out.

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