Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pension Breakthrough for the Rest of Us

This is a press release that introduces an approach that could be disruptive to suppliers of the $525 billion invested in target date funds (TDFs) in the U.S.. TDFs are the fastest growing product in the defined contribution market in the U.S., Canada, Australia and elsewhere because they make investing simple. But they all benefit from a fundamental half-truth. They reduce equity exposure on a predetermined fixed glide path or become more conservative as a target date, like retirement, approaches. To the casual observer, it sounds like the fund reduces its exposure to risk over the life of the product. This would be exactly what plan members want and would do if they had the time and investing acumen to monitor and manage the assets themselves. Sadly these funds do not manage risk at all. The paper "What DC Plan Members Really Want" describes why this is the case and offers two ideas to fix and improve outcomes.