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Can 401(k) Plans Provide Adequate Retirement Resources?


  • Peter J. Brady


Even though they have only existed since 1981, some analysts have concluded that 401(k) plans are a failure. For example, some argue that 401(k) plans are “coming up short†due to, among other factors, the low contribution rates of participants. A recent government report concluded that “low defined contribution plan savings may pose challenges to retirement security.†There are also proposals to replace 401(k) plans with mandated savings. This article illustrates that moderate 401(k) contribution rates can lead to adequate retirement income for many workers; that adequate asset accumulation can be achieved using only a 401(k) plan; and that these results do not rely on earning an investment premium on risky assets. Using Monte Carlo simulation techniques, this study also illustrates the investment risk faced by participants who choose to invest in risky assets, or who choose to make systematic withdrawals in retirement rather than annuitize their account balance.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter J. Brady, 2012. "Can 401(k) Plans Provide Adequate Retirement Resources?," Public Finance Review, , vol. 40(2), pages 177-206, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:pubfin:v:40:y:2012:i:2:p:177-206

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thornton, John, 2007. "Further evidence on revenue decentralization and inflation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 140-145, April.
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