Blaming the Victims of the 401(k) Crisis

By James W. Russell

Huffington Post, April 20,2015

As an author and speaker about 401(k)s and the retirement crisis, I often receive letters from readers who are relieved to find out that it wasn’t their fault that they came up short with these plans.

One reader wrote:    “I read your book some months ago, and I felt so validated.  Up until then, I didn’t really know what went wrong with my retirement plans and assumed that it was somehow my fault although I have always been a saver and had put in an extra $100/month to my 403(b) as long as I was a full-time employee. [403(b)s supplement 401(k), sharing the same stock market investing approach to retirement savings.]

“It meant a lot to me to know that my predicament was not just the result of poor planning on my part.  When I run into former colleagues who also retired, I find that they are in the same boat. One has gone back to work full-time and another, a good bit older than me, is working two jobs.”

Another 401(k) retiree wrote of having felt guilty about having to get support from her adult children.  She and her children had assumed that the blame was hers for coming up short and needing help.

The financial services industry, which profits handsomely from managing 401(k) and similar accounts, encourages victim self-blaming. What better way to deflect criticism from itself for running a rigged game?

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