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How Do Employers’ 401(k) Mutual Fund Selections Affect Performance?

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Publication Date: January 2013

Publisher(s): Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Author(s): Edwin J. Elton; Martin J. Gruber; Christopher R. Blake


Special Collection:

Topic: Economics (Property and wealth)
Labor (Labor conditions, wages, salaries, and benefits)

Keywords: 401(k) ; plan administrators

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


Defined contribution plans, predominantly 401(k)s, are the primary source of personal retirement savings for American workers, making the investment decisions within these accounts a salient policy concern. These decisions are a result of two separate actions: the mutual fund options selected by the employer’s plan administrator and the specific funds chosen by the participant.

While considerable research has examined 401(k) participant decisions in isolation, surprisingly little attention has been focused on the choices made by plan administrators. The administrator’s role is clearly influential, particularly if, as indicated by prior research, 401(k) participants themselves do not make good choices. This brief, based on a prior study, addresses this research gap by focusing on the fund choices of 401(k) plan administrators and participants’ reactions to these choices.