(Bloomberg View) – Retirees may be forgiven for indulging in nostalgia, but all too often our thinking about retirement falls prey to that vice. Criticism of 401(k) plans is once again being voiced, and once again being read against the background assumption that in the good old days we had a better retirement system based on traditional defined-benefit pensions.

According to the critics, “the proliferation of 401(k) plans has exposed workers to big drops in the stock market and high fees from Wall Street money managers while making it easier for companies to shed guaranteed retiree payouts.” The alleged result is that a lot of Americans, maybe even most of them, are dangerously underprepared for their retirements. Some people want to scrap the 401(k) altogether.

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