How Much Choice is Too Much?: Contributions to 401(k) Retirement Plans

Sheena S. Iyengar, Gur Huberman, and Wei Jiang

Abstract —Although extensive choice seems appealing, research shows that it may hinder motivation to buy and decrease subsequent satisfaction with purchased goods. This paper examines whether these findings generalize to employees who are making decisions about whether to invest in 401(k) retirement saving plans. Using data from nearly 800,000 employees, we tested the hypothesis that employee 401(k) participation rates fall as the number of fund options increase. Our results confirm that participation in 401(k) plans is higher in plans offering a handful of funds, as compared to plans offering ten or more options.