I have no idea why 401(k) participation wasn’t automatic in the first place and why it took the Pension Protection Act of 2006 to make it possible. The benefits of the law are already being seen as Nationwide Financial Services reported that 96% of employees are now saving for their retirement versus 74% in 2006. While the cynics will say that defined contribution plans like the 401(k) take the burden of retirement off employers, I saw we need to face the realities of the day. The reality is that defined benefit plans like pensions carry their own set of risks, ask anyone who had a Delta pension. I’d rather we face reality rather than fight it for the sake of pointing fingers.
The findings come as Americans face a shortfall in funding their retirements. The average balance in a 401(k) account was $61,346 at the end of 2006, according to the Washington-based Employee Benefit Research Institute. The savings will matter more in the future, as the number of companies offering traditional pension plans has declined by two-thirds over the past 20 years, according to the Retirement Security Project, a Washington-based group that advocates policies to help Americans become financially secure.