The Federal Reserve Bank of New York works to promote sound and well-functioning financial systems and markets through its provision of industry and payment services, advancement of infrastructure reform in key markets and training and educational support to international institutions.
The Outreach & Education function engages, empowers and educates the public in the Second District. Our outreach mission furthers the Bank’s commitment to the region by listening to the communities we serve and developing programs, analysis and sponsored conferences and clinics to help meet their needs. Our education mission aims to advance public knowledge about the Federal Reserve System and its role in the economy.
This paper examines how workers use 401(k) plans by examining their participation, contribution, and withdrawal decisions. Sixty-five percent of eligible workers participate in 401(k) plans. Employee participation rises with income, age, job tenure, and education. While participation also rises if the employer matches contributions, 401(k) participation does not grow with the rate of matching. When pension plan assets are withdrawn in lump-sum distributions before retirement, just 28 percent of distribution recipients (representing 56 percent of distribution assets) roll over the withdrawn funds into tax-qualified savings plans. Our findings suggest that many workers, particularly those with low incomes, do not use 401(k) plans to save for retirement.
For a published version of this report, see William F. Bassett, Michael J. Fleming, and Anthony P. Rodrigues, "How Workers Use 401(k) Plans: The Participation, Contribution, and Withdrawal Decisions," National Tax Journal 51, no. 2 (June 1998): 263-89.