Why It's Time to Retire the 401(k)

Last year's market wipeout showed the vulnerability of the popular retirement-savings accounts. But the data are telling us that even in the long run, consumers need better options

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Edward Gajdel for TIME

Robert Shively, 68, worked in a chemical plant for 36 years, but that didn't earn him an easy retirement.

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But many policy experts say some type of change to our retirement-savings system is coming. First of all, given the market carnage, there is some backing for the idea--not to mention anger and disappointment among retirees who can't really retire. Recent opinion polls show that people would be willing to give up the flexibility of a 401(k) for a guaranteed return. What's more, the fact that ERIC supports a guaranteed plan is encouraging. "Whether the 401(k) is a perfect plan or even the right plan is something that is being questioned in Congress," says Democratic Representative George Miller of California, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. "When you have seen the market's ability to create bubbles, you've got to ask whether the people trying to save for retirement should have to ride that risk."

Back at the golf course, Shively is not the only former Occidental employee toiling away in his retirement. There are three other former Oxy Pete workers among the staff. All would be better off today--and probably playing the course as opposed to working it--had Occidental stuck to its pension system. Still, Shively says he is not mad at his former employer. And so far, he hasn't found working in retirement to be too bad. Let's hope we all think the same.

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