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Target-Date Funds in 401(k) Retirement Plans

Author

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  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • Stephen Utkus

Abstract

Individual responsibility for portfolio construction is a central theme for defined contribution pensions, yet the rise of target-date funds is shifting investment decisions from workers back to employers. A complex choice architecture including automatic enrollment, reenrollment, and fund mapping, is increasing the number of participants defaulting into employer-selected target-date funds. At the same time, portfolios of non-defaulted participants undergo sizeable changes, with equity share ratios widening by over 40 percent points between younger/older participants. Among active decision-makers, these funds act as a form of implicit employer-provided lifecycle investment advice. More broadly, our findings highlight malleable preferences among retirement investors and a demand for default-based guidance or simplified advice for households facing complex choices.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivia S. Mitchell & Stephen Utkus, 2012. "Target-Date Funds in 401(k) Retirement Plans," NBER Working Papers 17911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17911
    Note: AG LS PE
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17911.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Plan Design and 401(K) Savings Outcomes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 275-298, June.
    2. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2011. "Financial literacy and retirement planning in the United States," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(04), pages 509-525, October.
    3. Laurent E. Calvet & John Y. Campbell & Paolo Sodini, 2009. "Fight or Flight? Portfolio Rebalancing by Individual Investors," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 301-348.
    4. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2003. "Optimal Defaults," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 180-185, May.
    5. 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.
    6. Shlomo Benartzi, 2001. "Excessive Extrapolation and the Allocation of 401(k) Accounts to Company Stock," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(5), pages 1747-1764, October.
    7. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "How Much Is Investor Autonomy Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1593-1616, August.
    8. Iyengar, Sheena S. & Kamenica, Emir, 2010. "Choice proliferation, simplicity seeking, and asset allocation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 530-539, August.
    9. 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.
    10. Andrew A. Samwick & Jonathan Skinner, 2004. "How Will 401(k) Pension Plans Affect Retirement Income?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 329-343, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. repec:eee:hapoch:v1_865 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Dimmock, Stephen G. & Kouwenberg, Roy & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Peijnenburg, Kim, 2016. "Ambiguity aversion and household portfolio choice puzzles: Empirical evidence," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(3), pages 559-577.
    4. James M. Poterba, 2014. "Retirement Security in an Aging Society," NBER Working Papers 19930, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Wei-Yin Hu & Olivia S. Mitchell & Cynthia Pagliaro & Stephen P. Utkus, 2013. "Evaluating Web-based Savings Interventions: A Preliminary Assessment," Working Papers wp299, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G02 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Behavioral Finance: Underlying Principles
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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