Before I had kids, I played golf. I took weekly golf lessons from a guy named Kenny. When it came to golf clubs, Kenny said that gold clubs were merely tools. It all depended on how you used them. My Callaway clubs that are collecting dust in the garage weren’t going to make me break 100, what I did with them would. Clubs wouldn’t make me slice in the woods, how I used them would.
Thanks to Frontline and a column by Thomas Friedman from the New York Times, a lot of blame about retirement is focused on 401(k) plans. 401(k) plans didn’t help kill off pension plans, employers who were saving money and a change in the Internal Revenue Code limiting compensation and benefits did. Again, like golf clubs, 401(k) plans are tools. The retirement gamble or jackpot is dependent on how plan sponsors and plan participants use their 401(k) plan. A vigilant plan sponsor concerned about the retirement outcome of their employees and concerned about limiting their liability as plan fiduciaries are going to have a better 401(k) plan and retirement outcome than those who never benchmarked fees and haven’t reviewed their fund lineup in 10 years.
A 401(k) plan is a tool, nothing more and nothing less. There is no evil in a 401(k) plan; just neglectful plan sponsors, participants, and providers that make a 401(k) plan look like a losing gamble.