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here's a disturbing link to bad news about 401(k)s and how low and middle income people are better off with defined-benefit pension plans. The bottom line seems to be that unless you're very rich now, you're more poor today than you were 15 years ago

Though the author of these articles conflates the two (in a typical "the rich are screwing the poor" vein), deferred executive compensation plans don't have anything to do with 401(k)'s. Deferred comp plans are really just legal tax avoidance vehicles for high bracket taxpayers; realize that these folks generally have plenty of retirement money, this isn't really some covert 401(k) only for the rich, as the author suggests, but a tax advantaged form of compensation for highly valuable employees.

Similarly, the problem with deferred compensation plans isn't really a rich/poor issue. 401(k)s are "underfunded" solely because most individuals choose not to contribute -- whereas under defined benefit plans, they're forced to. It becomes an income issue only in that lower income employees are less likely to contribute, which is due to both: (1) lower incomes making it harder to save, with equal consumption levels, and (2) on average, lower education (as higher educated workers on average earn more).

But this fact isn't really an indictment of defined contribution plans per se. Unfortunately, many workers make bad decisions about how much to invest, and (as your more recent post points out), they tend to undervalue benefits vs. cash salary. While it's hard to correct these problems (we can't have the government mandating when people can change jobs, and we shouldn't mandate that workers save money outside the social security system), we can at least try to improve transparency to facilitate decision-making, and perhaps develop mechanisms to encourage better (unconflicted) guidance for employees.

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