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J.P. Morgan Asset Management Finds Some Target Date Funds Overlook Critical Factors

NEW YORK, Nov. 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Research released today by J.P. Morgan Asset Management confirms decade-long patterns of suboptimal savings behavior among defined contribution plan participants. Real-world activity among savers is more unpredictable than many fund managers assume in their fundamental design, often resulting in too much volatility being embedded in target date funds.

J.P. Morgan's series "Ready! Fire! Aim? How some target date fund designs are missing the market on providing retirement security to those who need it most" began reporting in 2007 and now reflects 10 years of consistent data. The research, which studies the relationship between target date glide paths and actual participant investment behavior, is designed to provide empirical data to plan sponsors struggling to determine what target date fund asset allocation strategy is best suited to improve their plan participants' retirement outcomes.

"Plan sponsors run the risk of falling short in best positioning participants to achieve retirement security if they aren't assessing whether their target date portfolio design stands up to the stresses of real-life saving and investing," said Anne Lester, Managing Director, J.P. Morgan Asset Management Global Multi-Asset Group.

Participant Behavior Patterns

A key finding is that the fund industry's modeling of participant behavior patterns is often unrealistic. Consistent with previous years, participants contributed less and borrowed and withdrew more than prevalent industry expectations informing asset allocation models. Whereas convention wisdom generally assumes participants start contributing at 6% and reach 10% of salary by age 35, in actuality, as of the end of 2011, average participants start contributing at 5% and increase slowly, not reaching 10% until age 59. Contribution rates for auto-enrolled participants are even lower. Meanwhile, large numbers of participants continue to take sizable account loans and pre-retirement hardship withdrawals are on the rise. These suboptimal behaviors directly translate into a wider range of projected participant outcomes.

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