401(k) Balances Projected To Weather Market Fluctuations

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When combined with Social Security payments, the 401(k) plan accumulations of employees contributing from their late 20s until retirement should provide sufficient income for the standard of living usually recommended by financial advisors, according to an Issue Brief published this month by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington.

Jack VanDerhei, the Temple University business school faculty member who wrote the brief, looked at whether the plans will be an effective vehicle for retirement savings for employees retiring between 2035 and 2039.

VanDerhei says projected retirement income from 401(k) accumulations is likely to be significant despite brief periods of poor stock market performance.

“We took the worst three contiguous years, and still if youve been in a plan your entire career, youll have a sizable replacement rate” for income received while working, VanDerhei says.

Even if stocks perform as poorly as they did during the worst 50-year period in the history of the stock market (1929-1978), 401(k) plan accumulations should still be significant, according to VanDerhei.

The only projected situation that causes accumulations to drop significantly is not having continued access to a 401(k) plan, VanDerhei says.

VanDerhei based his research on data on 2.5 million plan participants collected by EBRI and the Investment Company Institute, Washington.

The model used for the projection assumes the plan participants would continue the contribution patterns observed today.

EBRI and ICI project each participants income, contributions, withdrawals, loans and asset allocations from the end of 2000 until the participant retires. VanDerheis brief focuses on participants in their late 20s at the end of 2000, who will turn 65 between 2035 and 2039.

Although these figures may seem at first glance to be improbable given reports that some plan participants have suffered losses in recent years, reports of widespread heavy losses and major, widespread changes in participant behavior are “anecdotal,” VanDerhei says.

They likely concern employees “who very, very recently got into the system and may have had some setbacks,” he says.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 18, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.