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Winners and Losers: 401(k) Trading and Portfolio Performance

Author

Listed:
  • Takeshi Yamaguchi

    (The Wharton School)

  • Olivia Mitchell

    (The Wharton School)

  • Gary Mottola

    (Vanguard Center for Retirement Research)

  • Steven Utkus

    (Vanguard Center for Retirement Research)

Abstract

Few previous studies have explored how individuals manage their defined contribution (DC) pension plan assets, even though such plans constitute an increasingly important component of retirement wealth. Using a unique new dataset on over one million active 401(k) plan participants in a wide range of plans, we assess the impact of trading on investment performance in DC plans. We find that, in aggregate, the risk-adjusted returns of traders are no different than those of nontraders. Yet certain types of trading such as periodic rebalancing are beneficial, while high-turnover trading is costly. Interestingly, those who hold only balanced or lifecycle funds, whom we call passive rebalancers, earn the highest risk-adjusted returns. These findings should interest fiduciaries responsible for designing DC pensions and regulators of the retirement saving environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Takeshi Yamaguchi & Olivia Mitchell & Gary Mottola & Steven Utkus, 2007. "Winners and Losers: 401(k) Trading and Portfolio Performance," Working Papers wp154, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp154
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    File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp154.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gervais, Simon & Odean, Terrance, 2001. "Learning to be Overconfident," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 14(1), pages 1-27.
    2. William N. Goetzmann & Massimo Massa & K. Geert Rouwenhorst, 2000. "Behavioral Factors in Mutual Fund Flows," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm135, Yale School of Management.
    3. Mark Grinblatt, 2001. "What Makes Investors Trade?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(2), pages 589-616, April.
    4. Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2000. "Trading Is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(2), pages 773-806, April.
    5. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 2004. "The Transition to Personal Accounts and Increasing Retirement Wealth: Macro- and Microevidence," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 17-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2001. "Boys will be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 261-292.
    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, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    8. Julie Agnew & Pierluigi Balduzzi & Annika Sundén, 2003. "Portfolio Choice and Trading in a Large 401(k) Plan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 193-215, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. David Bravo Urrutia & Olivia S. Mitchell & Petra Todd, 2007. "Learning from the Chilean Experience: The Determinants of Pension Switching," Working Papers wp266, University of Chile, Department of Economics.

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