Employee benefits and shiny cars don't usually go hand-in-hand. No one ever bragged about driving a medical, dental, or vision plan off the lot.

Yet even the most basic corporate benefits are a product of their era. Consider the case of the venerable 401(k), the staple of most corporate retirement plans. In 1978, Congress amended the Internal Revenue Code to allow employees to receive their income tax-free when it was deposited into a deferred retirement account. Early adopters of this newfangled benefit could not foresee how one piece of legislation would transform individual retirement plans forever, but before long traditional pensions were phased out as the industry standard. Ultimately, the 401(k) represented more than just a new investment vehicle for American workers. It became a means for employers to attract new talent, help employees improve their financial wellness, and prepare workers for a stable retirement.

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