Addressing the Retirement Crisis with Shadow 401(k)s

17 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2016 Last revised: 7 Nov 2019

See all articles by Deepa Das Acevedo

Deepa Das Acevedo

University of Alabama - School of Law

Date Written: September 5, 2016


Most Americans will lack the financial resources to be secure and relatively satisfied upon retirement, and commentators increasingly recognize that this “retirement crisis” calls for policy changes affecting both active participants in the workforce and retirees. Nevertheless, some proposed reforms are limited by their exclusion of whole categories of workers or by their privatization of the problem and their reliance on employers’ initiative and skill. Other proposals have not gained much ground, perhaps because they incorporate forms of government contribution or liability that face uphill legislative battles in today’s political climate.

This Essay sketches a solution, the “Shadow 401(k),” that avoids these issues by creating a universally available and federally administered (but not guaranteed, matched, or credited) portable 401(k) plan and annuity purchase. The Shadow 401(k) builds on existing knowledge in behavioral economics, financial literacy, and gerontology to provide choice without requiring complicated planning. It also responds to recent calls for “portable benefits” plans that are designed with platform economy workers in mind. Consequently, the Shadow 401(k) presents an incremental step towards addressing the retirement crisis while also providing a flexible framework for future policy reform.

Keywords: Employment law, retirement security, savings, investment, annuities, Social Security Administration, incentives, portability, Pension Protection Act, PPA, financial planning and management

JEL Classification: D14, H55, J26, J32, K31

Suggested Citation

Das Acevedo, Deepa, Addressing the Retirement Crisis with Shadow 401(k)s (September 5, 2016). Notre Dame Law Review Online 92 (2016): 38-54, U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 16-21, Available at SSRN:

Deepa Das Acevedo (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics