401(k) Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances, and Loan Activity in 2011
56 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2012
Date Written: December 2012
This paper is an update of the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Investment Company Institute’s ongoing research into 401(k) plan participants’ activity through year-end 2011. The report is divided into four sections: The first describes the EBRI/ICI 401(k) database; the second presents a snapshot of participant account balances at year-end 2011; the third looks at participants’ asset allocations, including analysis of 401(k) participants’ use of target-date, or lifecycle, funds; and the fourth focuses on participants’ 401(k) loan activity. On average, at year-end 2011, 61 percent of 401(k) participants’ assets was invested in equity securities through equity funds, the equity portion of balanced funds, and company stock. Thirty-four percent was in fixed-income securities such as stable-value investments and bond and money funds. At year-end 2011, 13 percent of the assets in the EBRI/ICI 401(k) database was invested in target-date funds and 39 percent of 401(k) participants held target-date funds. Also known as lifecycle funds, these funds are designed to offer a diversified portfolio that automatically rebalances to be more focused on income over time. At year-end 2011, 51 percent of the account balances of recently hired participants in their 20s was invested in balanced funds, compared with 44 percent in 2010, and about 7 percent in 1998. A significant subset of that balanced fund category is target-date funds. At year-end 2011, 40 percent of the account balances of recently hired participants in their 20s was invested in target-date funds, compared with 35 percent at year-end 2010. The share of 401(k) accounts invested in company stock remained at 8 percent in 2011. This share has fallen by more than half since 1999. Recently hired 401(k) participants contributed to this trend: They tended to be less likely to hold employer stock. At year-end 2011, 21 percent of all 401(k) participants who were eligible for loans had loans outstanding against their 401(k) accounts, unchanged from year-end 2009 and year-end 2010, and up from 18 percent at year-end 2008. Loans outstanding amounted to 14 percent of the remaining account balance, on average, at year-end 2011, unchanged from year-end 2010. Loan amounts outstanding increased slightly from those at year-end 2010. To understand changes in 401(k) participants’ average account balances, it is important to analyze a sample of consistent participants. As with previous EBRI/ICI updates, analysis of a sample of consistent 401(k) participants (those that have been in the same plan since 2003) is expected to be published in 2013.
Keywords: 401(k) account balances, 401(k) plans, Asset allocation, Employment-based benefits, Lifecycle funds, Pension plan assets, Pension plan loans, Retirement plans, Self-directed investments, Target-date funds
JEL Classification: D31, D91, G11, J26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation