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Target Date Fund Investors More Confident About Reaching Retirement Goals

Originally posted April 15, 2014 on www.ifebp.org

Individuals investing in a target date fund within their workplace defined contribution (DC) retirement plan feel more confident about investing and meeting their retirement goals than those that don’t use target date funds, according to recently updated survey results from Voya Financial’s Investment Management business.

The survey was conducted by ING U.S. Investment Management, which plans to rebrand as Voya Investment Management in May 2014. ING U.S. Investment Management is part of Voya Financial, Inc., which recently rebranded from ING U.S., Inc.

In the survey, “Participant Preferences in Target Date Funds: An Update,” more than half (56%) of target date fund (TDF) investors felt confident they would meet their retirement goals. In comparison, just over four-in-ten (41%) of non-TDF investors felt confident about their retirement savings. Further reinforcing this confidence among TDF investors is the survey’s finding that nearly two-thirds (64%) felt they could turn their plan savings into an income stream at retirement, compared with just 43% of non-TDF investors. These findings compare similarly to results of a similar study conducted in 2011.

Overall, more than two-thirds (68%) of plan participants using TDFs reported that the investments alleviated the stress of retirement planning, increased their confidence that they were making good investment decisions, and helped them feel more assured they could meet their retirement income goals.

Target Date Fund Investors Contribute MoreThe survey also found that TDF investors contribute more to their retirement plans. Forty-two percent of TDF investors contribute more than 11% of their income to their workplace plan. In comparison, just 23% of those who do not invest in TDFs were contributing more than 11% of their income.

“These findings about how target date funds are influencing plan participants’ feelings and savings habits provide some powerful insights that both consultants and plan sponsors can act upon,” said Bas NieuweWeme, managing director and head of institutional distribution. “Considering the significant increase in the equity markets in 2013, it is noteworthy that the confidence of those that don’t invest in target date funds is no stronger than it was in 2011. On the contrary, those that invest in target date funds continue to be more confident than non-target date fund investors, or demonstrating greater levels of retirement readiness.”

Plan Participants Seek Glide Paths Offering Protection and Diversification

In addition to higher confidence and savings levels among TDF investors, the survey found that the vast majority of both TDF investors and non-TDF investors have a strong preference for protection against loss in the years leading up to retirement (92%) and broad diversification among both investments (92%) and investment providers (85%).

“Participants clearly want their investment providers to exhibit great care in the all-important years leading up to retirement,” said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of multi-asset strategies and solutions. “This knowledge can help consultants and plan sponsors factor in the investment preferences of their participants when customizing glide paths for their plan demographics. Our focus and objective as investment managers is to ensure we apply those risk-return preferences in a thoughtful and disciplined way.”

In addition to the updated research on plan participants use of TDFs, ING U.S. Investment Management has published”Rethinking Glide Path Design – A Holistic Approach,”a detailed analysis of how to align investment portfolio risk with the retirement objectives of participants at every stage in the plan life cycle. Understanding participant demographics and knowing their preferences allows us to create custom glide paths which are designed specifically for individual plans.

“A glide path design needs to take into account the risks of the investment portfolio relative to the overall retirement goals of plan participants over the course of a full life cycle,” says Frank Van Etten, deputy chief investment officer, multi-asset strategies and solutions. “This helps maximize the probability of successful retirement – namely, allowing participants to maintain their lifestyles in retirement while not outliving their assets. To accomplish this, the investment decision at every stage of the life cycle must incorporate a holistic perspective in which in-retirement objectives are driving the process.”

Survey Methodology

ING U.S. Investment Management, in collaboration with the ING Retirement Research Institute, conducted an online survey of 1,017 employer-sponsored retirement plan participants between September 16, 2013 and September 20, 2013. At 90% confidence, the margin of error in the study was +/- 3.5%. Of the respondents, 500 invested in a TDF within their plan, while 517 did not. All respondents to the survey were currently contributing to an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan, were age 25 or older, and were the primary/joint financial decision maker for their account. The survey included plans of all employer sizes. The data was weighted by household income, age and gender, among other variables, to more closely represent the demographics of the general retirement plan population. To prevent bias, ING U.S. Investment Management was not identified as the sponsor of the research.

There is no guarantee that any investment option will achieve its stated objective. Principal value fluctuates and there is no guarantee of value at any time, including the target date. The “target date” is the approximate date when you plan to start withdrawing your money. When your target date is reached, you may have more or less than the original amount invested. For each target date Portfolio, until the day prior to its Target Date, the Portfolio will seek to provide total returns consistent with an asset allocation targeted for an investor who is retiring in approximately each Portfolio’s designation Target Year. Prior to choosing a Target Date Portfolio, investors are strongly encouraged to review and understand the Portfolio’s objectives and its composition of stocks and bonds, and how the asset allocation will change over time as the target date nears. No two investors are alike and one should not assume that just because they intend to retire in the year corresponding to the Target Date that that specific Portfolio is appropriate and suitable to their risk tolerance. It is recommended that an investor consider carefully the possibility of capital loss in each of the target date Portfolios, the likelihood and magnitude of which will be dependent upon the Portfolio’s asset allocation.

Stocks are more volatile than bonds, and portfolios with a higher concentration of stocks are more likely to experience greater fluctuations in value than portfolios with a higher concentration in bonds. Foreign stocks and small and mid-cap stocks may be more volatile than large-cap stocks. Investing in bonds also entails credit risk and interest rate risk. Generally, investors with longer timeframes can consider assuming more risk in their investment portfolio.