Ron Lieber, in his NY Times column, Bucks, reports that the underlying purpose of 401(k) accounts is being undermined by the fact that many people withdraw 401(k) assets before retirement.  His article begins as follows:

This week, the Internal Revenue Service announced that people under age 50 in 401(k) and similar workplace retirement plans will be able to deposit up to $18,000 in 2015, an increase of $500 from this year. Those 50 and over can toss in as much as $24,000, a $1,000 increase.

Which is all fine and dandy for the well-heeled and the frugal. But one of the biggest problems with these accounts has nothing to do with how much we can put in. Instead, it’s the amount that so many people take out long before they retire.

Over a quarter of households that use one of these plans take out money for purposes other than retirement expenses at some point. In 2010, 9.3 percent of households who save in this way paid a penalty to take money out. They pulled out $60 billion in the process; a significant chunk of the $294 billion in employee contributions and employer matches that went into the accounts.

Read full article at Combating a Flood of Early 401(k) Withdrawals – NYTimes.com.

Posted by Lewis J. Saret, Co-General Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.