Are You Making The Best 401(k) Investment Choices?

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Are You Making The Best 401(k) Investment Choices?

by | Jan 10, 2020

With the drastic reduction in defined benefit plans offered by most public companies and the more popular defined contribution plans like 401(k)s, investment choices and the corresponding investment risk are now the responsibility of the plan participant.  Unfortunately, too often, plan participants make random investment choices without sufficient research or knowledge of basic concepts of diversification, market risk or how to evaluate fund managers.   

For evidence of this, research published in the Financial Review reported that 401(k) plan participants are more likely to invest in mutual funds at or near the top of alphabetical listings. Investment choices on the websites of 401(k) or 403(b) plans use are often listed by asset class, with the funds in each class organized in alphabetical order. The research indicated, on average, each of the top four funds on such a list receives 10 percent more allocation than it would receive if money was distributed equally among the investment options.  The findings suggest that ordering 401(k) investment options for example, in order by expense ratio or listed with low-volatility funds at the top—could improve investment outcomes for plan participants.

Most participants are probably not going to take the time, training or have the inclination to do adequate research on specific fund analysis for performance, expenses, or ranking vs. benchmarks to name a few.  The problem is, the advertisers of do-it-yourself investment platforms have promulgated the theory that anyone can be an expert and make educated, intelligent choices about the proper asset allocation for their account and then select the best investment for each category including U.S. and International equities of large, medium and small companies, fixed income, including corporate, government, with various credit qualities and maturity, alternative investments (not usually offered by plans) and cash equivalents.  To overcome the worst-case dart throwing or ABC approach, most plan sponsors are now offering age-based allocation scenarios that pre-populate a set allocation based on age, trusting that whomever selected the fund choices are continually providing sound due diligence on those fund options. 

An improperly diversified portfolio with too much risk exposure or not enough growth exposure at certain ages can cause under-performance to drastically affect your retirement next egg and the ability to retire as planned.  For several years, after seeing our clients struggle with making optimal investments in their plan, our firm has been providing guidance and direction with active portfolio rebalancing recommendations for their specific plan investment choices.  After starting with a risk profile evaluation and a written Investment Policy Statement that guides the investment objectives, quarterly rebalancing reports are provided for them to make periodic adjustments after we perform a deep dive analysis into every fund choice offered in the plan.   

If you’re concerned that your retirement plan allocations are being made half hazardly without intentional research and careful evaluation, consider having us help guide you in the right direction.  

The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of author, and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected, including diversification and asset allocation. Individual investor’s results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results.


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