SEC Wants to Know Why Target-Date Mutual Funds are Growing Riskier

The US Labor Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission want to know why target-date mutual funds, which were supposed to get safer as investors aged, have become more high risk. Large mutual fund firms, including Vanguard and Fidelity , promised that as investors approached their retirement target-date funds would automatically shift from high-growth investments to safer ones, such as bonds. These funds were supposed to be a safe bet for retirement.

In 2007, the Labor Department issued a ruling protecting employers that automatically sent workers 401(k) funds to target funds if the employees later lost money. This decision released a lot of money into the funds. Approximately $182 billion has gone into target-date funds. Yet as the stock market fell in 2008, a number of 2010 funds lost 40% value.

Now, SEC Chairman Mary Shapiro wants to know whether companies misled investors about the risks involved with target-date funds. The SEC has gathered data that reveal that no clear standards exist for how target-date funds should operate and that they can vary when it comes to investment risks even if their names or target dates are similar. According to Shapiro, the SEC is worried that funds with even the same target date can vary a great deal when it comes to investment and returns. Funds invested in safer bonds appeared to perform better. Last year:

Fidelity Freedom 2010 Fund: Invested 50% in stocks; it lost 25% of its value last year.
Wells Fargo 2010 Fund: Lost 11% and is heavy in bonds.
AllianceBernstein 2010: Dropped by 1/3rd; 57% invested in stocks.
Deutsche Bank Fund: 4% down; favors fixed-income investments.

Now, Congress wants workers that want to invest in target-date funds and other 401(k) funds to receive accurate marketing, better disclosure fees, and better financial advice. Envestnet Asset Management and Behavioral Research Associations conducted a study that brought to light a number of misconceptions about target-date funds. For example, employees believed target-date funds offer a guaranteed return, faster money growth, and the ability to invest less and still be able to retire.

Related Web Resources:
Target-Date Mutual Funds May Miss Their Mark, NY Times, June 24, 2009
Target-Date Funds That Hit the Mark, Smart Money, January 17, 2008
If you believe that you suffered investment losses because a member of the securities industry mismanaged your account or provided you with inaccurate or incomplete information, contact our stockbroker fraud law firm today.