Here’s how a 401(k) plan typically works.
The employee elects to have a portion of his or her wage paid directly, or “deferred”, into his or her 401(k) account. In participant-directed plans (the most common option), the employee can select from a number of investment options, usually an assortment of mutual funds that emphasizes stocks, bonds, money market investments, or a mix of the above.
Many companies’ 401(k) plans also offer the option to purchase the company’s stock. The employee can generally re-allocate money among these investment choices at any time. In the less common trustee-directed 401(k) plans, the employer appoints trustees who decide how the plan’s assets will be invested.