In 1981, the Internal Revenue Service published regulations authorizing 401(k)s, the first participant-directed retirement plans in the U.S. Six years later, about 15 million Americans were actively participating in 401(k)s.

At that time, few people would have believed a prediction such as this: Over the next two decades, participant-directed plans will grow to cover 60 million U.S. workers, hold over $3 trillion in assets, and dominate the U.S. retirement plan market. Yet, this has happened.

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