One of the major shake-ups in retirement planning has many businesses now using target date retirement funds (TDFs). However, many workers are still uncertain about their employee benefits management and how the new system works to their benefit and if it's in a company's best interest to use them.
TDFs have been around since the 1990s, but have become more widely used in the last few years because they give workers the option to invest more conservatively while employees get older, Benefits Pro reported.
The new system strongly favors equities and stocks when workers are younger and gradually moves to bonds and fixed income options once employees get closer toward their retirement age, the Motley Fool reported.
However, after the stock market crashed in 2008, many found out that TDFs took a hit as well, which made it nearly impossible to see a return on investment when workers were just two years away from retirement, the source reported.
Jake Adamczyk, associate vice president for Aurum Wealth Management Group, explained that if companies continue to stick with TDFs, employers should still comply with current regulations, but something should be done if they are going to be used as a "quantified default investment alternative," the source reported.
"The alternative is employees or participants investing on their own and all the studies done, all the research says professional guidance is better than folks doing it by themselves," said Adamczyk, according to Benefits Pro.
TDFs grow rapidly after market settles
The importance of saving for retirement is only growing since many workers are nearing their expected retirement date with little funds saved, USA Today reported. Currently, TDFs account for $670.6 billion in total assets, which is more than four times higher than the $160 billion reported at the end of 2008. One of the biggest concerns for businesses implementing these plans is if their workers will have too much equity exposure when they are getting close to the targeted retirement date, Barron's reported.
Generally, younger workers will see equity allocation make up around 90 percent of their funds, while it will slowly move to 50 percent or less when workers are nearing their retirement date, the source reported. TDFs have seen success since the market has rebounded and several industry observers believe it's not a bad idea to shift 401(k) plans to TDFs since it's a good investment.
"Target-date funds are a better choice for almost everyone than trying to manage their own retirement portfolio," said Joe Nagengast, a spokesperson for Target Date Analytics, a retirement plan consulting firm, according to financial investment publication Barron's. "With a target-date fund, you get a rational investment approach, broad diversification and a strategy for lowering risk as the retirement date approaches."
Employees looking for unique options
There are three major companies that cover 70 percent of the TDF market: Fidelity, Vanguard and T. Rowe Price, Barron's reported. Specifically, Fidelity currently has $186 billion target-date funds at the end of May 2014, which has grown since businesses are comfortable having them manage retirement-plan assets.
"A lot of what we see with smaller plan sponsors is that they're skeptical that they can find an investment manager who can beat the market over time after fees," said Greg Carpenter, CEO of Employee Fiduciary, a firm that controls 401(k) plans, according to the source. "They're choosing index target-date funds. That gives their employees a fighting chance to be retirement ready."
Experts believe that TDFs are a "sound alternative" for several 401(k) plan investors, but employees are going to want to have their funds specifically tailored to their unique needs, U.S. News and World report said. In some circumstances, workers are finding out that their TDF plan is not specifically adjusted to the date they wish to retire, which can change retirement plan outlooks.