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Understanding Trading Behavior in 401(k) Plans

  • Takeshi Yamaguchi

    (The Wharton School)

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    We use a new database covering 1.2 million active participants to study trading activities in 1,530 defined contribution retirement plans. Descriptive statistics and regression analysis indicate some interesting trading patterns. First, we show that trading activity in 401(k) accounts is very limited: only 20% of participants ever reshuffled their portfolios in two years. Second, demographic characteristics are strongly associated with trading activities: traders are older, wealthier, more highly paid, male employees with longer plan tenure. Finally, we find that plan design factors, such as the number of funds offered, loan availability, and specific fund-families offered have significant impacts on 401(k) plan participants’ trading behavior. Moreover, on-line access channels stimulate participants to trade more frequently, although they do not increase turnover ratio as much. We conclude that plan design features are crucial in sharing trading patterns in 401(k) plans.

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    File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp125.pdf
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    Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp125.

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    Length: 44 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp125
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    1. Olivia S. Mitchell & Stephen P. Utkus & Tongxuan (Stella) Yang, 2005. "Turning Workers into Savers? Incentives, Liquidity, and Choice in 401(k) Plan Design," NBER Working Papers 11726, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Gervais, Simon & Odean, Terrance, 2001. "Learning to be Overconfident," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 14(1), pages 1-27.
    3. Massimo Massa & William Goetzmann & K. Rouwenhorst, 2000. "Behavioral Factors in Mutual Fund Flows," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm8, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Jan 2001.
    4. William E. Even & David A. Macpherson, 2004. "Determinants and Effects of Employer Matching Contributions in 401(k) Plans," Labor and Demography 0405001, EconWPA.
    5. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "THE POWER OF SUGGESTION: INERTIA IN 401(k) PARTICIPATION AND SAVINGS BEHAVIOR," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187, November.
    6. Mervyn A. King & Jonathan I. Leape, 1987. "Asset Accumulation, Information, and the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 2392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Samuelson, Paul A, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection by Dynamic Stochastic Programming," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 239-46, August.
    8. Douglas D. Bernheim, . "Financial Illiteracy, Education, and Retirement Saving," Pension Research Council Working Papers 96-7, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    9. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2001. "Naive Diversification Strategies in Defined Contribution Saving Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 79-98, March.
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