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401(k)s Might Be the Only Retirement Option for Many Americans — But They're Also a Major Risk, Experts Warn More people are saving for retirement than ever before — but an underlying issue's also getting bigger.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

izusek | Getty Images

With pension plans all but in the past and the Social Security trust fund staring down a 75-year deficit, 401(k) plans are the only sure bet for younger Americans who hope to retire one day.

Today, more Americans are saving for retirement than ever before, and they're using 401(k)s to do so — which means that all of that wealth has accumulated among Wall Street's four largest asset managers: BlackRock, Vanguard Group, Fidelity Investments and State Street Global Advisors, CNN Business reported.

Related: Average 401(k) Account Balances Plummeted Last Year. How Does Yours Compare to the Typical American's?

BlackRock boasts $9 trillion under management, Vanguard $7.2 trillion, Fidelity $4.2 trillion and State Street $3.5 trillion: Together, the four companies are in charge of assets worth 65% of the total value of the shares in the S&P 500, per the outlet.

Although the average 401(k) plan tumbled more than 20% in 2022, Americans continue to contribute at a steady rate — with a recent study finding that workers expect to need $1.25 million for a comfortable retirement, CBS News reported.

Of course, shareholders have the right to vote on happenings in company operations, but proxy voting means huge asset managers can do so on behalf of their clients, effectively impacting a company's actions and direction themselves.

Related: Retirees Earn Up to $20,000 Per Month With One Side Hustle

Some say that such concentrated ownership could wreak havoc.

Asset managers possess "significant influence over company practices" and vote on resolutions that could change the course of our planet, shareholder advocacy group ShareAction wrote in a recent report, and Harvard Law professor Einer Elhauge called the imbalance the "greatest anticompetitive threat of our time," per CNN.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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