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Plan Design and 401(k) Savings Outcomes

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  • James J. Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte C. Madrian

Abstract

We assess the impact of 401(k) plan design on four different 401(k) savings outcomes: participation in the 401(k) plan, the distribution of employee contribution rates, asset allocation, and cash distributions. We show that plan design can have an important effect on all of these savings outcomes. This suggests an important role for both employers in determining how to structure their 401(k) plans and government regulators in creating institutions that encourage or discourage particular aspects of 401(k) plan design.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10486.

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Date of creation: May 2004
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Publication status: published as Choi, James J., David Laibson and Brigitte C. Madrian. “Plan Design and 401(k) Savings Outcomes.” National Tax Journal 57 (June 2004): 275-298.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10486

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  1. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2006. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 12447, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. William E. Even & David A. Macpherson, 2004. "Determinants and Effects of Employer Matching Contributions in 401(k) Plans," Labor and Demography 0405001, EconWPA.
  3. Leslie E. Papke, 1995. "Participation in and Contributions to 401(k) Pension Plans: Evidence from Plan Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(2), pages 311-325.
  4. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," JCPR Working Papers 257, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "For Better or For Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," JCPR Working Papers 256, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  6. Richard Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Papke, Leslie E., 2004. "Individual financial decisions in retirement saving plans: the role of participant-direction," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 39-61, January.
  8. William F. Bassett & Michael J. Fleming & Anthony P. Rodrigues, 1998. "How workers use 401(k) plans: the participation, contribution, and withdrawal decisions," Staff Reports 38, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  9. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "How Much Is Investor Autonomy Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1593-1616, 08.
  10. Gabriel D. Carroll & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1639-1674, November.
  11. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2005. "Passive Decisions and Potent Defaults," NBER Chapters, in: Analyses in the Economics of Aging, pages 59-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2001. "Naive Diversification Strategies in Defined Contribution Saving Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 79-98, March.
  13. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 1998. "3. Lump-Sum Distributions from Retirement Saving Plans: Receipt and Utilization," NBER Chapters, in: Inquiries in the Economics of Aging, pages 85-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Cunningham, Christopher R. & Engelhardt, Gary V., 2002. "Federal Tax Policy, Employer Matching, and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from HRS W-2 Records," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(3), pages 617-45, September.
  15. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2003. "Optimal Defaults," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 180-185, May.
  16. Bernheim, B. Douglas & Garrett, Daniel M., 2003. "The effects of financial education in the workplace: evidence from a survey of households," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(7-8), pages 1487-1519, August.
  17. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Choices, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 67-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Papke, Leslie E. & Poterba, James M., 1995. "Survey evidence on employer match rates and employee saving behavior in 401(k) plans," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 313-317, September.
  19. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages S164-S187, February.
  20. Alicia H. Munnell & Annika Sunden, 2002. "401(k)s And Company Stock: How Can We Encourage Diversification?," Issues in Brief ib-9, Center for Retirement Research.
  21. James M. Poterba, 2003. "Employer Stock and 401(k) Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 398-404, May.
  22. Gur Huberman & Sheena Iyengar & Wei Jiang, 2007. "Defined Contribution Pension Plans: Determinants of Participation and Contributions Rates," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 1-32, February.
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