The 30th anniversary of the first 401(k) savings plan which I designed is rapidly approaching on Jan. 1, 2011, making this an appropriate time to briefly consider how 401(k) has impacted our retirement system.

Most Fortune 500 companies offered their employees a defined benefit plan, plus a thrift/savings plan, when 401(k) savings plans began in 1981. The thrift plans featured after-tax employee contributions, plus matching employer contributions. The most common retirement plan available to employees of small to mid-size companies was an employer-funded profit sharing plan.

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