The 401(k) “is not the path to a secure retirement,” said The New York Times in an editorial. Americans weren’t saving enough even before the financial crisis, but the crisis has highlighted some big flaws in the 401(k) system: notably, our Golden Years are hostage to the whims of the market. We must adjust tax incentives and explore other ways to “shift risk that is currently borne by individuals onto corporations and the government.”
There are things that individual investors should, but generally don’t, do to lower their own risk, said Meir Statman in The Wall Street Journal. Dollar-cost averaging, or investing a set amount on a regular schedule, is “not rational, but it is pretty smart.” And instead of trying to beat the market, “simply buy and hold a diversified portfolio. Banal? Yes. Obvious? Yes. Typically followed? Sadly, no.”
People do seem to be diversifying a bit, said Emily Gazer in iStock Analyst. Fidelity Investments says that overall 401(k) contributions rose in the second quarter, after dropping over the past three quarters, and only 68 percent of the new money went into equities, down from 75 percent in recent years.
The uptick in contributions is “great news for fund firms” like Fidelity, said David K. Randall in Forbes, but depending on the circumstances, the 401(k) is a “crummy deal” for workers, especially younger and lower-earning ones. If your company doesn’t match your contribution, consider opting out and starting a Roth IRA or, if you employer offers it, a new Roth 401(k).