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Special Report

Morningstar's 401(k) Week

Jan. 27-31: Make your 401(k) work for you with investment ideas and portfolio strategies from Morningstar.

"The problem with 401(k)s are a couple," said Vanguard founder Jack Bogle at our June 2013 Investment Conference. "The big one for me is, it's a thrift plan that we've tried to redesign into a retirement plan. It was never created to be a retirement plan." Among the plan's shortfalls, he said, is the ability for workers to withdraw their savings too easily, an all-too-common decision for many Americans as they move from one job to another.

But well-built for retirement or not, the fact is, 401(k)s and similar so-called defined contribution plans (where workers invest on their own behalf, often with employer matching funds) are increasingly the central vehicle for retirement savings in this country. Government statistics show that the percentage of workers covered by defined benefit plans (where the employer invests on behalf of the worker and pays out an income stream in retirement) has been steadily declining, while the number covered by defined contribution plans has been marching upward.

Bottom line? The 401(k)--for better or for worse--is what we've got. So how do we make it work? What role can employers play? And how can we, as employees and as savers, also become the good investors we need to be to ensure a comfortable, well-funded retirement? 

During our 401(k) Week, we aimed to help you stack the deck for success in your 401(k) plan. We covered the basic rules and tax advantages of the investment wrapper, how to allocate your 401(k), and what to do with your assets once you enter retirement. We also looked at the viability of the 401(k) itself in a special roundtable discussion on Friday.

401(k) Week: Editor's Picks

Monday, Jan. 27: How Good Is Your 401(k) Plan?
Is your plan worthy of your hard-earned dollars? On Monday, we'll cover the basics to help you figure it out, including all the nuts and bolts of 401(k)s (contribution limits, company matching strategies, tax treatment, penalties, key ages for withdrawals), useful baselines to understand how your plan measures up, comparisons of 401(k)s to other retirement account options, and more.

Tuesday, Jan. 28: Hands-off Investing in Your 401(k): Target-Date Funds
Target-date funds have become increasingly popular in 401(k)s (they are typically used as default investment options in auto-enrollment plans), giving investors a way to put their 401(k)s on auto-pilot. On Tuesday, we'll help you understand how target-date funds work, how they're evolving, and whether they're right for you.

Wednesday, Jan. 29: Hands-on Investing in Your 401(k)
Tune in Wednesday if you want to take a more active role in managing your 401(k) or if you don't have or don't like your plan's target-date option
. We'll cover how to find a suitable allocation, select the best investments from your plan, decipher "no-name" fund options, and use your plan's brokerage window.   

Thursday, Jan. 30: 401(k)s in Retirement
Turning a 401(k) into a sustainable income stream in retirement will become the primary challenge for an increasing number of retirees over the next 20 years. On Thursday, we help investors make the transition by addressing the role of annuities, rollovers, target-date and retirement income funds, and a total return approach in retirement.

Friday, Jan. 31: Roundtable Report
401(k)s have taken some knocks in the media, but are they really at the center of a retirement crisis? In a new video roundtable report featuring Morningstar's John Rekenthaler and Christine Benz as well as David Blanchett of Morningstar Investment Management, we dig into where the retirement vehicle really is and isn't falling short for investors, how it has improved, and what still needs to be done.