In this economy, do 401(k) plans still matter?

With the current economic crisis, it wasn't just the stock market, banks, hedge funds, insurance and auto companies that took a big hit. Employee retirement plans took a nose dive, too. Will your clients' employees (and your staff) who are nearing retirement be able to look forward to a secure and comfortable retirement? Or, will we all have to work into our “Golden Years?” That's the million-dollar question on everyone's mind these days!

Well, it's true that a lot of corporate and small business pension plans and 401(k) plans got walloped by the current economic crisis. However, there is good news on the horizon. For example, a recent Special Report in BusinessWeek (July 2, 2009) was titled IBM Reinvents the 401(k). The report went on to explain how “Staffers were nervous when Big Blue replaced its pension plan with a souped-up 401(k). Now, the plan could be the new gold standard.”

As CPAs, our clients (and our staff) often look to us for trusted business advice on matters that often go way beyond our accounting and auditing functions. Do you know all of the options out there? For example, do you know the key advantages of a 401(k) versus a SIMPLE IRA? (See this online comparison chart courtesy of Paychex — part of our Trusted Business Advisor Solutions family.)

Have you been keeping up on new developments in retirement plans for both your clients and your firm? What do you think? What about Social Security and Medicare? Will they still be around in 10, or 20, or 30 years? What would you recommend to your clients who want to offer a solid retirement plan for their employees? Please share your thoughts here.