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For a few years now, people have been tinkering with ways to get more 401k participation. Nothing seems to have helped.

I think something that has been tried (and has worked) is the promotion of "opt out" plans instead of the current "opt in." As things are now, in most companies, you have to opt in to the 401(k). And, you're right, many people somehow just don't opt in -- even though it's in their interest to do so. The "opt out" approach has new employees immediately signed up for a 401(k). They have to take it upon themselves to opt out -- something they don't usually do. There're "nudged" in the right direction.

Some people call this "nudge paternalism" or "libertarian paternalism."

Here's a recent book:

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