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An Update on 401(k) Plans: Insights From the 2007 SCF

  • Alicia H. Munnell
  • Francesca Golub-Sass
  • Dan Muldoon

The maturation of the 401(k) system and the enactment of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which made 401(k) plans easier and more automatic, were expected to enhance the role that 401(k)s played in the provision of retirement income. So, originally, the release of the Federal Reserve’s 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) seemed like a great opportunity to re-assess 401(k)s. The SCF is a triennial survey of a nationally representative sample of U.S. households, which collects detailed information on households’ assets, liabilities, and demographic characteristics. Of course, the 2007 SCF reflects a world that no longer exists. Interviews were conducted during the late summer and early fall when the Dow Jones was at 14,000 (the peak was October 9, 2007) and housing prices were only slightly off their peak. While the economic crisis had already begun, its effects were not yet visible. Since the time of the interviews, the stock market has imploded, reducing the value of equities in 401(k) and IRAs by about $2 trillion. Housing prices have fallen by 20 percent. And the crisis has spread to the real economy, throwing 3.6 million people out of work...

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Paper provided by Center for Retirement Research in its series Issues in Brief with number ib2009-9-5.

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Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2009
Date of revision: Mar 2009
Handle: RePEc:crr:issbrf:ib2009-9-5
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  1. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "THE POWER OF SUGGESTION: INERTIA IN 401(k) PARTICIPATION AND SAVINGS BEHAVIOR," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187, November.
  2. Arthur B. Kennickell & Martha Starr-McCluer & Brian J. Surette, 2000. "Recent changes in U. S. family finances: results from the 1998 Survey of Consumer Finances," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jan, pages 1-29.
  3. Hurd, Michael & Panis, Constantijn, 2006. "The choice to cash out pension rights at job change or retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(12), pages 2213-2227, December.
  4. Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Plan Design and 401(k) Savings Outcomes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(2), pages 275-98, June.
  5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "For Better or for Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 81-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Alicia H. Munnell & Dan Muldoon, 2008. "Are Retirement Savings Too Exposed to Market Risk?," Issues in Brief ib2008-8-16, Center for Retirement Research, revised Oct 2008.
  7. 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.
  8. Richard Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
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