If you don’t do this already, start asking all clients and prospects where the money they put into their 401(k)s is going. When the answer is a target date mutual fund, the next question to ask is whether the participant actively chose the fund or it was automatically assigned as a qualified default investment alternative. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute among all participants who auto-enrolled in target date funds in 2007, 95.7 percent were still using them in 2009. You can access results of this new EBRI study here.
Target date funds never did fit the risk tolerance of many plan participants, mainly because they are too stock-heavy for younger investors who want to preserve capital. Beyond this mismatch, sticking with any default investment choice over a year or more indicates inertia and lack of attention. Of all plan menu investment choices available (and opportunities to diversify among them), the odds are low that one default target date fund is the best fit for a given person. Target date funds tend to be more expensive than index funds and many other actively managed fund choices.