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Target Date Defaults in a Public Sector Retirement Saving Plan

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  • Robert L. Clark
  • Olivia S. Mitchell

Abstract

Little is known about whether employee retirement saving patterns change when public sector employers implement Target Date Funds (TDFs) as the default plan investment. We use administrative and survey data from a large government entity to track participation, contributions, and asset allocation impacts of TDF introduction. We show that those mapped into TDFs did not alter their holdings so that the reform resulted in higher equity shares, especially for women, younger workers, and low‐seniority employees. The least risk‐tolerant and financially literate employees held 12 percentage points more equity than previously. Moreover, defaulting public employees into TDF had a profoundly sticky effect on their subsequent investment behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert L. Clark & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2020. "Target Date Defaults in a Public Sector Retirement Saving Plan," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 86(3), pages 1133-1149, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:soecon:v:86:y:2020:i:3:p:1133-1149
    DOI: 10.1002/soej.12415
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Butt, Adam & Donald, M. Scott & Foster, F. Douglas & Thorp, Susan & Warren, Geoffrey J., 2018. "One size fits all? Tailoring retirement plan defaults," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 546-566.
    2. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2014. "The Economic Importance of Financial Literacy: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 52(1), pages 5-44, March.
    3. 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.
    4. Gabriel D. Carroll & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 124(4), pages 1639-1674.
    5. Robert Clark & Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2017. "Employee Financial Literacy And Retirement Plan Behavior: A Case Study," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(1), pages 248-259, January.
    6. Robert L. Clark & Denis Pelletier, 2019. "Impact of Defaults in Retirement Saving Plans: Public Employee Plans," NBER Working Papers 26234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    8. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. repec:wly:soecon:v:80:3:y:2014:p:677-701 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Keim, Donald B. & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2018. "Simplifying choices in defined contribution retirement plan design: a case study," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(3), pages 363-384, July.
    11. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2009. "Comment on "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States"," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 195-198, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    1. John Beshears & Ruofei Guo & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & James J. Choi, 2023. "Automatic Enrollment with a 12% Default Contribution Rate," NBER Working Papers 31601, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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