90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Is The 401(k) Working?

Is the 401(k) working as a retirement plan for the American public? A lot of account balances say maybe not.

Photo Illustration (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Photo Illustration (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Back in the day, the 401(k) – if you had one – was just a supplement to a good old-fashioned pension. An optional way to juice up your retirement. Today, for most Americans, pensions are history and the 401(k) is the main event, after Social Security. And 401(k)s are failing.

Millions of Americans are barreling toward 65-plus with very little in the sugar bowl. The stock market has tanked and tanked again and looks shaky right now. Most human nature may not be cut out for sophisticated investing. Is there a better way?

This hour, On Point: Is the 401(k) a bust? And what would be a better way?

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist and nationally-recognized expert in retirement security. She’s an economics professor at The New School.

David Wray,  president of the Plan Sponsor Council of America, a national, non-profit association of companies that sponsor profit sharing and 401(k) plans.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “The only thing I haven’t dealt with on my to-do checklist is retirement planning. The reason is simple: I’m not planning to retire. More accurately, I can’t retire. My 401(k) plan, which was supposed to take care of my retirement, is in tatters.”

CBS News “The state of retirement savings in America is in big trouble. According to Fidelity Investments, the average 401(k) balance among its 11.8 million accounts increased to $74,600 at the end of the first quarter 2012, a 62 percent increase since the end of the first quarter 2009. While it’s good news that balances are up, the number of accounts is alarmingly low for such an industry giant.”

Time “One of the biggest flaws in most people’s retirement plan is something that previous generations rarely worried about: monthly income guaranteed for life. But the fix is in, and before long your 401(k) may look a lot more like your dad’s pension.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Mar 4, 2015
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a keynote address at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif.  (AP)

Hillary Clinton’s week of bad headlines: about her emails and foreign money going to the Clinton Foundation. We’ll dig in.

Mar 4, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 3, 2015
This July 21, 2014 photo shows strawberry banana chia breakfast smoothie in Concord, N.H. Breakfast habits in America are changing, leading to dramatic shifts in business strategy. (AP)

Food guidelines are changing. So is what we eat for breakfast. Cereal? Out of favor. Eggs? Maybe OK. And all kinds of new menus. We’ll look at Americans and breakfast.

 
Mar 3, 2015
A group of community activists in San Francisco, CA celebrate that city's February 2014 embrace of the Fair Chance Campaign's efforts to alter background checks on employment and housing for convicted criminals. (Courtesy All of Us Or None)

Is it time to stop asking job applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime? We’ll look at employment and unemployment after prison.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Answers To Your Questions On Black Holes
Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015

Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan answers your black hole questions in full. (Well, most of them.)

More »
Comment
 
Want To Listen To Lead Belly? Here’s Where To Start
Monday, Mar 2, 2015

Loved our show on Lead Belly, but unsure on where you should start to listen? Jeff Place of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage offers his best picks for a beginning Lead Belly listener.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: February 27, 2015
Friday, Feb 27, 2015

We won’t lead you into a debate on the color of #TheDress (it’s blue and black, end of debate), but we do wonder about the blurring lines between so-called Internet culture and general popular culture. Also, it’s snowing in Boston. Still.

More »
Comment