Americans depending on 401(k) plans for their retirement have taken a hammering as the stock market plunged during the past year, prompting critics to question the shortcomings of the system, reports the Wall Street Journal. Some 50 million American have 401(k)s, and Congress is weighing a revamp. "It's so crazy to have a system where people can lose half their assets right before they retire," says one expert.
Experts say 401(k) plans hold $2.5 trillion in value—down more than $1 trillion since October 2007, when the market peaked. Critics point to the sink-or-swim nature of the programs, which force investors to make decisions without much guidance, as a serious flaw. "This is the biggest test that the 401(k) plan has seen to date, and it has failed," says another expert.