Graduate School of Business


Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


Stowe, Jamie


Retirement Crisis, Safe Harbor 40(k) Plans, Amendments, Contributions


Accounting | Business


In the past three decades, many companies have adopted less expensive, relatively easier to establish, modify, amend, and terminate safe harbor 401 (k) retirement plans. By adopting the safe harbor, 401(k) plans, smaller private employers have enacted retirement incentives, shared the investment and managing responsibilities, and assisted their employees with building their retirement savings (Ali & Frank, 2019; Clark et al., 2019a). Furthermore, many small companies have reflected the impacts of the economic fluctuations and the retirement legislation changes, amended their safe harbor 401(k) plans, and lowered their retirement investments (Card & Ransom, 2011). The high number of plan amendments and the economic uncertainties have limited the employees’ abilities to accumulate retirement savings (Benartzi & Thaler, 2013; Libson, 2017). As a result, the increasing number of safe harbor amendments and the lack of financial education among employers and employees have amplified the retirement crisis in the United States (Acevedo, 2016; Clark et al., 2019b; Smith, 2016). Enhancing an understanding of the employees’ perceptions of engaging in retirement planning was essential for this research. The study focused on exploring the adverse impacts of amendments in the safe harbor 401(k) retirement plans as perceived and described by the retirement plan participants. It revealed the importance of pursuing proactive participation in retirement through employment. Finally, the research explored the impacts of the employees’ understanding and awareness of their opportunities to maximize their retirement benefits.

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