Participants in 401(k)s in their 20s during the mid-1990s chosedifferent asset allocations than those in their 20s at the end of2015, according to new research from the Employee Benefit ResearchInstitute.

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The study “401(k) Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances,and Loan Activity in 2015,” which looks at how 401(k) plan participants managed their assetallocations up to the end of 2015, allows a comparisonwith participants’ choices back in the 1990s.

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It indicates that younger plan participants in 2015 had lowerallocations to company stock and higher allocations to balancedfunds than their predecessors in the 1990s.

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While 2015’s participants allocated a similar share of aggregate assetsto equities, the report says, they changed the mix. Today’s youngparticipants are less concentrated in equity funds and companystock, but more so in balanced funds, including target-datefunds.

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In the report, Sarah Holden, ICI’s senior director of retirementand investor research, is quoted saying, “The data show that 401(k)plan investors in their 20s—whether the millennials of 2015 or theGeneration Xers of 1996—have invested a large portion of theiraccounts in equities, but the composition of these equityinvestments has changed. One factor influencing this trend is thattoday’s younger investors are relying more on the automaticrebalancing feature of target-date funds to keep their assetsallocated in an age-appropriate way as they progress through theircareers.”

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And while these younger participants’ equity allocation has beenhigh—77 percent for those in the 1990s, 80 percent for those in2015—they’re using different vehicles.

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At year-end 2015, participants had 28 percent of aggregateassets in equity funds, while in in 1996 those younger participantsput 55 percent into equity funds.

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And also in 2015, just 5 percent is in company stock, while in1996 it was 17 percent.

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But 54 percent of assets in 2015 were in balanced funds, 47percent of that in target-date funds.

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In 1996, however, 20-somethings only had 8 percent in balancedfunds (target-date funds weren’t separately reported in thedatabase, says the report, till 2006).

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It adds, “These trends also are mirrored among all age groups inthe database. Overall, allocations to company stock decreased from19 percent in 1996 to 7 percent in 2015, allocations to equityfunds decreased from 53 percent in 1996 to 43 percent in 2015, andbalanced funds increased from 7 percent of assets in 1996 to 25percent in 2015.”

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