Cramer: Will We Regret The 401K Boom?


Editor's note: Jim Cramer will present his 2009 stock outlook for the first time at Investment Conference on Saturday, Oct. 25. Click for details.

The end of 401ks? The end of the belief in better returns than what you get from money simply compounding?

When we look back that this era, an era where no money was made in the market over the last 10 years and severe dislocations have hurt people’s long-term money plans, I wonder if we won’t start regretting the whole 401k boom.

I remember when it started. I was a broker at Goldman Sachs, and they had just started the movement and I thought it would boom because stocks, historically, had been such great buys. And believe me, I think they will be again sometime.

The issue is, though, that the assumptions made about stocks aren’t panning out. The risk-reward is different now from what we thought , and I believe that lots of people will be disappointed that they won’t be able to retire when they want to because their savings didn’t compound.

Yesterday, I was on a show, the Dr. Phil show -- he’s a smart guy and people need help. He put me and Ben Stein on a panel, and I was dancing around the issue of whether the stock market is the right place for you to put money if you will need it in the next five years.

Stein came out point blank and said that almost every assumption that the experts made for stock exposure for the last 10 years is wrong and there will simply BE NO retirement. It sounded hyperbolic, but the reality is that he’s largely right. IF you put money in the market when you were 55 to retire at 65 you might not have exceeded your mattress’s return.

So what’s it all mean? I don’t want to be too dire. We still haven’t had any 20-year period when stocks underperformed other assets.

But I also know that we have had TONS of five-year periods now where they haven’t.

Hence, what I said about if you need the money for the next five years.

And hence, the firestorm because we are never supposed to lose faith in stocks.

Right now the faith does seem a tad misplaced, don’t you think?

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