While the poor economy has diminished companies' profitability, undoubtedly forcing many to reduce their rate of matching contributions, the matching contribution benefit is a bit of a sacred cow when it comes to employee benefits, Brambley said. Used as an incentive to increase and maintain plan participation, employers would be ill advised to eliminate their matching plans all together, she said.

Plus, most private companies' matching contribution and profit sharing plans are set up on a discretionary basis and are not tied to any one formula, Wray said. Even if a company has an off year, it will often try to offer its employees some sort of match, even if it is less than the year before, he said.

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