The disappearing 401(k) and inequality

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  • NewAdventures Cottonwood Heights, UT
    March 11, 2014 5:37 p.m.

    Quit complaining about the corporations and how much CEO's make. Truth be told you have control of your own destiny. If you want to make more money, then go out and make more money! Gees some people and their mentality. I'll be retiring at age 45. And I only make 60k a year and employer only matches 3% in 401k. But I save 60% of my income and put it to work in the market. My family doesn't go out to eat, only 1 car for the family, we do family trips around the state. Learn to cut expenses and live on a budget. I'm currently making 7k/year in dividends from these so called evil empire corporations. By the time I retire, I'll be making 35k/year in dividends. Thank you evil corporations for supplementing my early retirement!

  • IDC Boise, ID
    March 10, 2014 11:48 a.m.

    Doesn't matter how much you make, only matters how much you save. I make far more now than I ever thought I would, and saving is still hard. Saving has never been easy for me but I force myself to do it. I hope it works out in the end.

  • Liberty For All Cedar, UT
    March 9, 2014 1:39 p.m.

    People think they are entitled to a nanny state, 401k a pension, social security. No! If you haven't made plans to take care of yourself, then palliative heath care from the government is ALL you should compassionately receive, until you pass on.

  • vern001 Castle Rock, CO
    March 8, 2014 9:54 p.m.

    Funny how companies must downsize, cut 401ks, reduce healthcare benefits, etc. etc. but at the same time they have no problem paying CEOs more and more. In the 1970s and 1980s, the average Fortune 500 CEO made something like 20 times a worker's salary. Now that number is 300.

    So forgive me if I do not believe for one minute that companies can't afford to do the right thing by their workers. No, they choose to reward those at the top and treat everyone else as poorly as they can get away with.

    It's time we as a country realized that organizing labor and higher taxes on the rich and investing in education and infrastructure--all things this country did in the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s--are a protection for the middle class and we need them again!

  • David Ricardo Cedar Hills, UT
    March 8, 2014 8:30 a.m.

    This is not an indictment of the public policy of 401(k)s. This is an indictment of our culture and our public policies and individual agency which result in people – rich, poor and everywhere in between – choosing not to save more. There was the famous study where children willing to wait fifteen more minutes before consuming a marshmallow were given a second marshmallow. Those children that could wait tended to be significantly more successful than those who could not or chose not to wait.

    Our society is consumed with consumption, leisure and instant gratification. Companies have not become more greedy. They simply listen to current and prospective employees who value a dollar in today’s paycheck more than a dollar contributed to their retirement account.

    Undoubtedly, some will use this as cause to force adults to save more without their consent. I think it would be better to have a dialogue about our consumption culture and to enact policy that lessens disincentives against working more, saving more and investing more.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    March 8, 2014 7:34 a.m.

    What good is a 401k when your senile and don't know about it. No one is tell ya.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    March 7, 2014 9:21 p.m.

    Most people cannot afford to invest. Kiddsport makes it sound as if anyone can save for a decent retirement. When well over 50% of the country can barely make rent, all so the 1% can hoard even more money, it's wrong to blame the lack of saving money.
    It's time for companies to pay a liveable wage.

  • Vegas POV Las Vegas, NV
    March 7, 2014 8:45 p.m.

    32 years ago I sat in the living room of a wealthy man with 20 other college students. He said, I will give you the secret to wealth but only 10% of you will follow it. I vowed to be one of the two. Pay yourself 10% before you spend anything else. Invest it and save it.

    I have been unemployed for long stretches twice. I have had to cut back dramatically on living expenses at those times. I have driven old cars into the ground only to purchase another high mileage car, been a late adopter of technology, taken the family camping in the mountains instead of jetting all over the world and keep the house at 81 degrees in the summer and 67 in the winter.

    In twelve years, if the rich man keeps looking out so well for himself and the government doesn't change the rules damaging those who sacrifice now, I will live with more disposable money in retirement than I ever did while working.

    What one change would I make? I wouldn't move so much for jobs and pay my home off quicker.

  • the old switcharoo mesa, AZ
    March 6, 2014 12:32 p.m.

    Anti government, the IRS does not in anyway limit your ability to save for retirement. They limit the amount you can deduct from your taxes for it.

    You can build as large a stock, gold, real estate or jellybean portfolio as you want.

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    March 6, 2014 9:33 a.m.

    First companies cut pensions, next they reduced health insurance, now they are cutting 401ks. Meanwhile, CEO and top executive pay has reached the stratosphere. Anyone see a trend here? Time to scrap corporate capitalism and replace it with something sustainable. Remember, folks, we the people charter corporations. They exist because we allow them to. We can pass laws that rein them in and make them behave responsibly.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    March 5, 2014 3:02 p.m.

    “The effect has been a stratification of retirement savings by education, income and race —which could deepen inequality among the elderly as the population ages.”


    What does a 401k plan have to do with race? I’ve seen some non-sequiturs in my time but this one takes the cake.

    Education and income makes sense though, but how is that different than Social Security? Aren’t those benefits also based on past earnings?

    There may be other reasons why 401k’s are not the retirement panacea many assume (e.g., below a certain income level, saving any portion of one’s wages can be very difficult), but you wouldn’t know it from reading this poorly written article.

    What’s more disturbing is the gradual chipping away of retirement security that often accelerates in times of high unemployment (e.g., cutting matching percentages, etc…). Even when unemployment falls below “full capacity” levels, many of these cuts are not regained.

    This is troubling…

  • Z South Jordan, UT
    March 5, 2014 12:00 p.m.

    Those who don't understand their 401(k) options have suffered. Those who do, and who have done something more than just take the basic options have usually prospered. The 401(k) is just a vehicle for saving more money, and whether or not the company kicks in an extra 3% (nice, but not really necessary), is irrelevant to the up to 15% of your own money you can often be putting away.

    Live within your means, and save for the future.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    March 5, 2014 9:51 a.m.

    This is part of American capital's program to end retirement. No pensions, no social security, no senior health care. Work 'til you die. The message: the system cannot afford people who do not work - including the chronically ill.

    This is a wealthy country which can afford retirement, but the wealth is massively concentrated at the top and the top wants nothing to do with the looming boomer retirement. Boomers, you've been warned.

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    March 5, 2014 9:33 a.m.

    I am very thankful that my employer matches my 401k contribution. That said we are ultimately responsible for our own retirement, my generation doesn't expect anything from our employers, we very much have an attitude that it's a job, company loyalty is non existent these days. Yet companies wonder why their employees aren't loyal to them. Go figure.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    March 5, 2014 8:58 a.m.

    Declaring the grand 401k "experiment" a "failure" because people aren't saving enough and spending too much seems awfully disingenuous. Especially when the same could and **should** be said of the government as a whole.

    If the Washington Post is this worried about the effects of individuals not being sufficiently prepared for their future, I think should take another look at where the entire country is headed due to our collective fiscal mismanagement.

    The very sad and worrisome truth is we are ALL in for a terrible time when the bills (real and abstract) come due on our astronomical collective debt.

  • Lilljemalm Gilbert, AZ
    March 5, 2014 8:08 a.m.

    Add to this a study by the Society of Actuaries in which they looked at all defined benefit plans that had been terminated and found without exception that they were replaced within 2 years with plans for top management only that cost as much or more than the terminated defined benefit plans for rank and file employees. The stock holders did not benefit from any cost savings because it was just a cost shifting. It's all become a method of taking from the common folk to line the pockets of the few.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    March 5, 2014 6:43 a.m.

    Honestly folks, if you ran a company and were facing a future where your business had to accommodate Obamacare, higher taxes, more government regulations, the out of control EPA and seeing the economy continue to be very weak would you not hunker down, cut costs and try to survive? The other alternative is to move overseas to escape and survive. GE did it and look at them now with fists full of government energy research contracts all moved overseas! It pays to donate to Obama's campaign if you are a corporation!

  • Anti Government Alpine, UT
    March 4, 2014 7:39 p.m.

    I work for a Fortune 500 company with around 70 000 employees and their stock has doubled in the last 15 months. 2 years ago they completely cut their contribution to the 401K. "They can't afford to give raises or pay bonuses..." but the C.O.O stock value has gone up over $4 million in the last 18 months. You do the math.

    As a sidenote they have slashed healthcare benefits due to obamacare as well. $4000 out of pocket before insurance coverage. Stock doubled though.

    I will be getting another job elsewhere. I have seen enough. A change in leadership at the top and the trend has become clear what the future holds at this company.

    I have poured every dime into my 401K that I am legally allowed to but it won't be enough. I have to do more outside because the IRS limits what I can contribute..because the lower compensated employees don't contribute enough so our contributions get limited.

    Go figure. The IRS prevents me from preparing for my retirement because someone poorer than me at the same company won't use the 401K. Brilliant.

    Only govt could dream up a rule that stupid.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    March 4, 2014 7:16 p.m.

    Live below your means, learn to enjoy investing, i. e. make it a hobby, fully fund your and your spouses Roth IRA, and chances are you will do okay in retirement.

  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    March 4, 2014 4:34 p.m.

    Blaming the 401k for failure to prepare for retirement is like blaming the wheat stalk for not harvesting and storing wheat for the winter. It is merely a tool in a toolbox a person can and should use to prepare for financial winter- or retirement. Getting out of debt is another neglected tool, one our government sets a poor example for us all. I would venture to say state and federal taxes carry as much a burden on retirement preparedness as anything else. When the government turns to its senior citizens' Social Security checks to raise additional revenue, it has become too bloated and too greedy. Pare that back and seniors will be able to breathe a little easier.