No, that’s not my high school graduation picture. It’s a Microsoft staff photo from December 7, 1978 from the StateMaster website.

Yes, that’s Bill Gates on the bottom row left, and co-founder Paul Allen on the bottom row right. The company was just three years old and still located in Albuquerque before it moved to its new home  in Bellevue, Washington the next year.

A lot’s changed for Microsoft since then. The same 1978 “that was then, this is now” reference point can be used for 401(k) plans. 1978 was the year in which Congress amended the Internal Revenue Code by adding section 401(k).

The differences are many, e.g., economic, demographic, cultural, political. Whatever, and now may be an appropriate time for plan sponsors to consider the extent to which their 401(k) plans are doing what they are supposed to do.

It’s a topic I write about in my column, 401(k) Plans Must Adapt To New Economic Realities, in the May, 2010 online issue of Employee Benefit News.

Times change. Maybe retirement plans should too.