The following is the second and last part of my interview with Charles Farrell, the author of “Your Money Ratios“. We discuss the much maligned 401k, whether Social Security will survive, and crowd favorite, how raising personal income tax levels further will ruin America!
The 401K AND ALL ITS GLORY
Question: Why do you think there are so many detractors of the 401k plan? Furthermore, do you think it is fair that the pre-tax limit contribution is only $16,500 for some 22 as well as someone who is 45? Presumably, the average 45 year old is making much more than the average 22 year old, so how come the government doesn’t propose an increased pre-tax contribution scale the older one gets?
Answer: Many people don’t like 401(k) plans because they believe the burden of funding retirements should fall on employers and not employees; thus they would like to see us go back to defined benefit plans that are funded by employers. Well, that is just not going to happen. Employers have no appetite for guaranteeing to pay their workers for 30 or 40 years after they stop working for them. And DB plans are not flexible enough to accommodate a globally competitive marketplace, plus they discriminate against individuals who change jobs or careers. Moreover, many DB plans (particularly government plans) are significantly underfunded and many who thought they had guaranteed retirements may be unpleasantly surprised at some point. So I think the “romance” with DB plans is misguided, but many people would like to see those types of plans again. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.
Then there is another set of individuals who don’t like 401(k) plans because of the limited investment choices and sometimes high expense structure of the plans. I agree with people on this front, and there are problems with some 401(k) providers, particularly those smaller plans that can’t drive better deals on their investment platforms.
But, most plans do offer competitive options and are low cost. It’s important for readers not to lose sight of the primary reason to use a 401(k) plan, which is the huge tax benefit provided to those who contribute; and if you get a match, that is just makes it more attractive. The tax deduction, the match and the tax deferral on growth are incredibly valuable tools to help build your capital. So even with some restrictions, the plans are basically the best place to build your retirement assets.
Regulators Are The Problem! (401K Con’t)