The 401(k) plan is changing. Of course, that's nothing new. Driven by everyone who has had anything to do with them, plans over the years have morphed from an extra savings-only vehicle into the primary source of retirement funding for many, and along with that transformation have come loads of features designed to make those plans better serve participants.

What is new is the fact that plans are moving toward a more targeted purpose: to be the sole (or almost sole) source of funding for plan participants. They're more focused, more automated, and accompanied by bells and whistles that provide easier access, a focus on simplicity while offering more options and (one hopes) less risk, all accompanied by lower — or at least clearer — price tags.

A lot of features that are making their way into plans with increasing frequency today are aimed at reformulating things to improve retirement readiness and help participants and sponsors gauge how well they and their providers are doing.

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