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Target-Date Funds in 401(k) Retirement Plans

  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • Stephen Utkus

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17911.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17911.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17911
Note: AG LS PE
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  1. 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.
  2. Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2001. "Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, And Common Stock Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 261-292, February.
  3. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2011. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Planning in the United States," CeRP Working Papers 107, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "How Much Is Investor Autonomy Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1593-1616, 08.
  7. 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.
  8. Laurent E. Calvet & John Y. Campbell & Paolo Sodini, 2008. "Fight or Flight? Portfolio Rebalancing by Individual Investors," NBER Working Papers 14177, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2004. "Plan Design and 401(k) Savings Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 10486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Laurent E. Calvet & John Y. Campbell & Paolo Sodini, 2009. "Fight Or Flight? Portfolio Rebalancing by Individual Investors-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 301-348, February.
  11. 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.
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