Workers today are more likely to receive retirement income from private-sector retirement plans than they were before the passage of ERISA in 1974, according to a report by the Investment Company Institute.

"The importance of private-sector DB pensions in providing retirement income is often exaggerated," the report said. "The time before the emergence of 401(k) plans in 1981 has been characterized by many as the golden age of the golden watch: a time when most private-sector workers retired with a monthly pension check that replaced a significant portion of their pre-retirement income. Against this standard, 401(k) plans are judged to be falling short."

That "golden age," the report said, was more myth than fact. Today, a larger percentage (32 percent vs. 21 percent) of people receive retirement income either directly or through a spouse, and the amount received also has risen. Last year, the median annual income per person was $6,300 compared to $4,800 in 1975 (adjusted for 2012 dollars).

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