Mutual Funds and Institutional Investments: What Is the Most Efficient Way to Set Up Individual Accounts in a Social Security System?
In: Administrative Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform
One of the main criticisms of the defined-contribution, individual-account components of social security systems is that they are too expensive. The authors investigate the cost-effectiveness of three options for constructing funded social security pillars: * Individual accounts invested in the retail market with relatively open choice. * Individual accounts invested in the institutional market with constrained choice among investment companies. * A centralized fund without individual accounts or differentiated investments across individuals. The authors asked several questions: What is the most cost-effective way to organize a system with mandatory individual accounts? How does the cost of an efficient individual account system compare with that of a single centralized fund? And are the cost differentials great enough to outweigh other important considerations? The authors concentrate on countries with well-functioning financial markets, such as the United States, but make comparative references to developing countries. Based on empirical evidence about U.S. mutual and institutional funds, the authors found that the retail market (option 1) allows individual investors to benefit from scale economics in asset management - but atthe cost of the high marketing expenses needed to attract large pools of small investments. By contrast, a centralized fund (option 3) can be much cheaper because it achieves scale economies without high marketing costs. But it gives workers no choice and is subject to political manipulation and misallocation of capital. The system of constrained choice (option 2) is much cheaper than the retail option and only slightly more expensive than a single centralized fund. It allows scale economies in asset management and record-keeping while incurring low marketing costs and allowing significant worker choice. It is also more effectively insulated from political interference than a single centralized fund. The authors estimate that option 2 would c
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