IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Impact of 401(k) Plans on Retirement


  • Friedberg, Leora
  • webb, anthony


In 1993 38.9 million people were covered by a 401(k) plan, up from 7.1 million in 1983. The rapid growth of 401(k) and other defined contribution pension plans may alter retirement patterns of older workers. Previous research showed that the spread of defined benefit plans, with sharp age-related incentives first discouraging and later encouraging retirement, contributed to the early retirement trend of past decades. Defined contribution plans differ along several dimensions, especially in their smooth rate of pension wealth accrual. We use data from the Health and Retirement Study to show that retirement patterns have begun to change as defined contribution plans have spread. Our estimates indicate that the financial incentives in defined benefit pensions lead people to retire almost two years earlier on average, compared to people with defined contribution plans.

Suggested Citation

  • Friedberg, Leora & webb, anthony, 2000. "The Impact of 401(k) Plans on Retirement," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt2jr5w8b9, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsdec:qt2jr5w8b9

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:;origin=repeccitec
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Randall Filer & Marjorie Honig, 2005. "Endogenous Pensions and Retirement Behavior," CESifo Working Paper Series 1547, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Brown, Jeffrey R. & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Poterba, James M. & Warshawsky, Mark J., 1999. "Taxing Retirement Income: Nonqualified Annuities and Distributions From Qualified Accounts," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(3), pages 563-592, September.
    3. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 1998. "Personal Retirement Saving Programs and Asset Accumulation: Reconciling the Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 23-124 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1990. "The Pension Inducement to Retire: An Option Value Analysis," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in the Economics of Aging, pages 205-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. David I. Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 1998. "Self-Control and Saving for Retirement," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(1), pages 91-196.
    6. Robin L. Lumsdaine & James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1992. "Three Models of Retirement: Computational Complexity versus Predictive Validity," NBER Chapters,in: Topics in the Economics of Aging, pages 21-60 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Joseph Quinn, "undated". "New Paths to Retirement," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-10, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    8. Patrick J. Bayer & B. Douglas Bernheim & John Karl Scholz, 2009. "The Effects Of Financial Education In The Workplace: Evidence From A Survey Of Employers," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(4), pages 605-624, October.
    9. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & David A. Wise, 1985. "Labor Compensation and the Structure of Private Pension Plans: Evidence for Contractual versus Spot Labor Markets," NBER Chapters,in: Pensions, Labor, and Individual Choice, pages 55-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1996. "The Illusory Effects of Saving Incentives on Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 113-138, Fall.
    11. Poterba, James M. & Venti, Steven F. & Wise, David A., 1995. "Do 401(k) contributions crowd out other personal saving?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 1-32, September.
    12. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Social Security and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Olivia S. Mitchell, "undated". "New Trends in Pension Benefit and Retirement Provisions," Pension Research Council Working Papers 2000-1, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    14. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1999. "What People Don't Know About Their Pensions and Social Security: An Analysis Using Linked Data from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 7368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. MacDonald, Bonnie-Jeanne & Cairns, Andrew J.G., 2011. "Three retirement decision models for defined contribution pension plan members: A simulation study," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 1-18, January.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsdec:qt2jr5w8b9. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lisa Schiff). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.