The 401(k): Who's contributing what

Deciding how much of their salary to contribute to a 401(k) retirement fund is a tough question for many employees. New analysis by the Employee Benefit Research Institute - a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research group - and the Investment Company Institute offers some clues about what plans enrollees are opting for.

Among the findings of the research, which looked at the behavior of 1.7 million 401(k) participants:

• Eighty-five percent of participants only made before-tax contributions to their plans. On average, participants contributed 6.8 percent of their salaries on a before-tax basis.

• Employees whose plans offered an employer contribution contributed an average of 10 percent of their salaries, versus 7.4 percent for those in plans without an employer contribution.

• Participants who had the option of borrowing from their accounts contributed an average of 0.6 percent more of their salaries to their plans.

• Eleven percent of those who earned more than $40,000 a year contributed to their plans at the $10,000 before-tax IRS limit. However, among participants not contributing at the IRS limit, 52 percent could not have done so because their plans imposed contribution limits below the IRS limit.

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