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The efficiency of sponsor and participant portfolio choices in 401(k) plans

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Listed:
  • Tang, Ning
  • Mitchell, Olivia S.
  • Mottola, Gary R.
  • Utkus, Stephen P.

Abstract

To evaluate the extent of inefficient behavior in 401(k) pensions, now the dominant form of retirement saving in America, we attribute inefficiencies separately to the employer's menu design versus participant portfolio elections. Results from our analysis of over 1000 plans and a million participants demonstrate that most sponsors offer efficient investment menus, but participants undo this by constructing inefficient portfolios thus reducing their potential retirement wealth by one-fifth. Because participants are the main source of inefficient pension investment choices, strategies targeting their behavior may be useful -- including improved default investment strategies or educational programs. We also show that the number of options offered is less important than the range of funds provided when designing 401(k) menus.

Suggested Citation

  • Tang, Ning & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Mottola, Gary R. & Utkus, Stephen P., 2010. "The efficiency of sponsor and participant portfolio choices in 401(k) plans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1073-1085, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:94:y:2010:i:11-12:p:1073-1085
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Cardella, Eric & Kalenkoski, Charlene M. & Parent, Michael, 2018. "Less Is Not More: Information Presentation Complexity and 401(k) Planning Choices," IZA Discussion Papers 11538, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. repec:eee:hapoch:v1_865 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Robert Novy-Marx & Joshua D. Rauh, 2012. "Linking Benefits to Investment Performance in US Public Pension Systems," NBER Working Papers 18491, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gustafson, Matthew T., 2017. "The market sensitivity of retirement and defined contribution pensions: Evidence from the public sector," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 1-13.
    5. Jacobs, Heiko & Müller, Sebastian & Weber, Martin, 2014. "How should individual investors diversify? An empirical evaluation of alternative asset allocation policies," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 62-85.
    6. Clemens Sialm & Laura T. Starks & Hanjiang Zhang, 2015. "Defined Contribution Pension Plans: Sticky or Discerning Money?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 70(2), pages 805-838, April.
    7. repec:gam:jrisks:v:6:y:2018:i:1:p:12-:d:132609 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Robert L. Clark & Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2014. "Financial Knowledge and 401(k) Investment Performance," NBER Working Papers 20137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Novy-Marx, Robert & Rauh, Joshua D., 2014. "Linking benefits to investment performance in US public pension systems," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 47-61.
    10. Kim, Hugh Hoikwang & Maurer, Raimond & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2016. "Time is money: Rational life cycle inertia and the delegation of investment management," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(2), pages 427-447.

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