When the 401(k) was first introduced, it had no official name. The United States Congress gave it its own title and number, “401k”, and it quickly became one of the most popular ways for people to save for retirement. But how did this mysterious number come to be?

The 401(k) was created in 1978 as part of the Revenue Act. This act was an attempt by the government to encourage people to save for their own retirement. It allowed taxpayers to put up to 15% of their annual salary aside in a tax-deferred account. In other words, taxes were not owed until the money was withdrawn. The origin of the name “401(k)” comes from the section of the Internal Revenue Code where it is listed: section 401(k).

Over the years, this savings option has grown in popularity, becoming the most common form of retirement savings for many Americans. According to the Investment Company Institute, over 60 million Americans have 401(k) accounts as of 2020, with an estimated total of $7.3 trillion in assets. This is more than double the amount from when 401(k)s first appeared in the 1980s.

Benefits of Having a 401(k)

Having a 401(k) plan can be hugely beneficial and provide individuals with a number of advantages. Firstly, contributions to a 401(k) plan can be taken directly from an employee’s paycheck, making saving for retirement automatic and efficient. Secondly, a 401(k) plan offers tax advantages to employees as contributions and investment earnings are not subject to taxes until they are withdrawn. Thirdly, employers often provide matching contributions, meaning that employees are able to save more money and receive more of an employer contribution than they would with other retirement plans. Fourthly, 401(k) plans often provide a wide range of investment options, allowing individuals to tailor their investments to their own needs and goals. Finally, employers are legally required to provide certain protections for 401(k) plan participants, such as providing accurate and timely information about plan investments and ensuring that plan funds are properly managed and invested.

Risks Associated With a 401(k)

Although a 401(k) plan can be a great way to save for retirement, there are certain risks associated with it. These risks include market volatility, fees and expenses, employer risks, and behavioral risks. Market volatility means that the value of the 401(k) investments can increase or decrease over time due to market fluctuations. Fees and expenses may include administrative costs, mutual fund fees, and other hidden costs. Employer risks include the possibility of employer bankruptcy or the employer changing or terminating the plan. Meanwhile, behavioral risks involve self-sabotage, such as not investing or withdrawing funds too early. It is important to be aware of these risks when considering a 401(k) plan.

How to Invest in a 401(k)

Investing in a 401(k) is a great way to save for retirement. To get started, it’s important to research the different types of available plans and decide how much you can afford to contribute. You may also be able to use your employer’s 401(k) plan to invest. With a careful selection of investments, you can use an online brokerage or a financial advisor to help you manage the investments and track your progress. When you begin to withdraw from your 401(k), you’ll need to pay taxes on the amount you take out. With careful planning, a 401(k) can provide a secure retirement fund.


  1. The annual contribution limit for 2023 is $22,500.
  2. You can take out loans against your 401(k).
  3. You can’t make withdrawals until you turn 59½ without taking a tax penalty



  1. 401(k) Plan Research: FAQs
  2. What Is a 401(k) Plan?
  3. 401(k) Basics: When It Was Invented and How It Works

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