401(k)

Do you actually know what's in your retirement fund?

October 18, 2011: 1:39 PM ET

Many of us don't have a clue, according to recent research. It's probably time to find out what you have in store come retirement. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

By Stephenie Overman, contributorretirement fund

FORTUNE -- Occasionally, in this era of gloomy nest egg prospects, Dallas Salisbury gets to be the bearer of good news and point out retirement benefits that people have overlooked.

"I had lunch with somebody who has worked for a large company for 21 years who was unaware that his company has a defined benefit plan," says Salisbury, who is the president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

While many people are familiar with their 401(k) plans, they know next to nothing about the more traditional type of pension plan.

A 401(k) is a type of defined retirement contribution plan, financed with planned payments from the worker, the employer, or both. About 82.5 million Americans participate in private sector defined contribution plans, according to EBRI.

Defined benefit plans typically are financed entirely by the employer, with the benefit based on a formula involving salary and length of employment. Although the number of companies offering defined plans has dropped dramatically since the mid 1980s, about 42.3 million still participate in this type of retirement plan.   More

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