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Turning Workers Into Savers? Incentives, Liquidity, and Choice in 401(K) Plan Design

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  • Mitchell, Olivia S.
  • Utkus, Stephen P.
  • Yang, Tongxuan (Stella)

Abstract

We use data on five hundred 401(k) pension plans to evaluate how employer matching incentives influence retirement saving. Company matches prove to have a small effect on participation and saving rates; only one in ten non–highly compensated workers joins the plan because of employer match incentives, while one–quarter fails to join even though the match offers real return premiums of up to five percent. We find that liquidity and investment constraints in 401(k) plans have negligible effects on plan saving patterns. Our research underscores the importance of default strategies to bolster pension saving including the automatic enrollment approach outlined in the 2006 Pension Protection Act and non–elective employer contributions.

Suggested Citation

  • Mitchell, Olivia S. & Utkus, Stephen P. & Yang, Tongxuan (Stella), 2007. "Turning Workers Into Savers? Incentives, Liquidity, and Choice in 401(K) Plan Design," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(3), pages 469-489, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:60:y:2007:i:3:p:469-89
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Plan Design and 401(K) Savings Outcomes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 275-298, June.
    2. William E. Even & David A. Macpherson, 2004. "Determinants and Effects of Employer Matching Contributions in 401(k) Plans," Labor and Demography 0405001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. 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.
    4. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 2004. "The Transition to Personal Accounts and Increasing Retirement Wealth: Macro- and Microevidence," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 17-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Engelhardt, Gary V. & Kumar, Anil, 2007. "Employer matching and 401(k) saving: Evidence from the health and retirement study," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(10), pages 1920-1943, November.
    6. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    7. 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.
    8. Gur Huberman & Sheena Iyengar & Wei Jiang, 2007. "Defined Contribution Pension Plans: Determinants of Participation and Contributions Rates," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 31(1), pages 1-32, February.
    9. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "Saving or Retirement on the Path of Least Resistance," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000606, UCLA Department of Economics.
    10. 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;National Tax Journal, vol. 55(3), pages 617-645, September.
    11. Julie Agnew & Pierluigi Balduzzi & Annika Sundén, 2003. "Portfolio Choice and Trading in a Large 401(k) Plan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 193-215, March.
    12. Karen M. Pence, 2002. "Nature or nurture: why do 401(k) participants save differently than other workers?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2002-33, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Cardella, Eric & Kalenkoski, Charlene M. & Parent, Michael, 2018. "Less Is Not More: Information Presentation Complexity and 401(k) Planning Choices," IZA Discussion Papers 11538, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. repec:eee:hapoch:v1_865 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:eecrev:v:98:y:2017:i:c:p:32-48 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Engelhardt, Gary V. & Kumar, Anil, 2008. "Money on the table: Some evidence on the role of liquidity constraints in 401(k) saving," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 402-404, May.
    5. Geng Li & Paul A. Smith, 2009. "New evidence on 401(k) borrowing and household balance sheets," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-19, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    6. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2007. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 1920-1943 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Olivia S. Mitchell & Gary R. Mottola & Stephen P. Utkus & Takeshi Yamaguchi, 2006. "The Inattentive Participant: Portfolio Trading Behavior in 401(k) Plans," Working Papers wp115, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    8. Zhou, Jie, 2009. "The effects of employer matching and income risk in 401(k) plans," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 1193-1200, November.
    9. Gur Huberman & Sheena Iyengar & Wei Jiang, 2007. "Defined Contribution Pension Plans: Determinants of Participation and Contributions Rates," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 31(1), pages 1-32, February.
    10. repec:kap:jfamec:v:39:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10834-017-9536-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Nicolas R Blancher & François Haas & John Kiff & Oksana Khadarina & Paul S. Mills & Parmeshwar Ramlogan & William Lee & Yoon Sook Kim & Todd Groome & Shinobu Nakagawa, 2006. "The Limits of Market-Based Risk Transfer and Implications for Managing Systemic Risks," IMF Working Papers 06/217, International Monetary Fund.
    12. Kosei Fukuda, 2007. "Age-period-cohort decomposition of social security taxes and benefits in the USA and Japan," International Economics and Economic Policy, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 227-240, November.
    13. Robert L. Clark & Jennifer A. Maki & Melinda Sandler Morrill, 2014. "Can Simple Informational Nudges Increase Employee Participation in a 401(k) Plan?," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 677-701, January.
    14. Takeshi Yamaguchi, 2006. "Understanding Trading Behavior in 401(k) Plans," Working Papers wp125, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    15. Hagen, Johannes & Hallberg, Daniel & Sjögren Lindquist, Gabriella, 2018. "A nudge to quit? The effect of a change in pension information on annuitization, labor supply and retirement choices among older workers," GLO Discussion Paper Series 209, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    16. Keenan Dworak-Fisher, 2008. "Encouraging Participation in 401(k) Plans: Reconsidering the Employer Match," Working Papers 420, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors

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