Your Financial Concierge View All Posts

Brad Sherman 310x277.fw

About Your Financial Concierge

Financial planning can be overwhelming to many. We’re here to help. We write on a variety of financial topics to help educate our community on financial literacy and personal finance.  We welcome any suggestions of topics you would like us to write about.  ... Read more

Discover Other Local Blogs

We have a great number of amazing blog posts contributed by our local bloggers. Discover what is happening in your neighborhood by reading their latest posts.

401k

The Conflicts of Interest Around 401(k)s

401kA new study in the Journal of Finance has found that conflicts of interest in 401(k) plans can lead to serious losses for individual investors. More specifically, the 2,500 funds surveyed were less likely to eliminate under performing funds that were their own rather than another provider’s fund. This can be very costly to retirement savers. Clemens Sialm, a professor of finance at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the study’s authors, explained that the bottom 10% of funds continued to underperform by about 4% if kept on the menu of funds available to investors.

With all of the attention lately focused on reducing these conflicts of interest where financial managers invest your money in their own funds (among individual financial advisors rather than institutional), it is surprising to see the bias getting coverage on an institutional level. As of June 2015, $4.7 trillion were invested in 401(k) accounts, plus another $2.1 trillion in non-401(k) defined-contribution plans. As John Oliver recently detailed, these conflicts of interest can cost millions over the course of a single retirement plan’s life. (For related reading, see: Financial Failings of NBA Legend Antoine Walker.)

Why the Conflicts Exist
The reason for the existence of these conflicts of interest is simple. Managers are prioritizing the profits of their institution over the success of the retirement plans they oversee. And there is no question that it is a raw deal for the investor. We’ve previously covered how many actively managed funds don’t even beat the market in the first place, and this study confirms that failing funds aren’t even taken off the menu of options. Imagine if your local restaurant kept undercooking their chicken and everyone was getting sick, but they refused to change the recipe.

Many employees at big asset management firms are now suing their own companies to liberate their own retirement plans from management. These people know it’s a scam, and God forbid that their own money gets caught up in it, but by and large they are OK with selling you inefficient funds. (For related reading, see: 6 Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor and Do You Need to Change Your Financial Advisor?)

These current events—and the study—indicate that conflicts of interest are pervasive in all aspects of the retirement planning industry, whether it’s a 401(k) through your employer or via traditional financial advisors. Dealing with this reality requires vigilance on your part. To return to the analogy of the undercooked chicken, it would be an easy case to deal with since everyone could tell that the chicken was making them sick. But what allows traditional asset companies to get away with conflicts of interest is that many people are simply too busy to monitor their accounts—that is, to find out if they are sick or not. If the undercooked chicken gave you an illness that was hard to detect, it would be much easier for the restaurant to get away with it.

Luckily, the tide is beginning to turn, and you can impact change, even with your 401(k). You should become an advocate for your own money. Contact your HR department and ask to see the performance of the menu of funds. See who’s managing it, how the menu has changed and evaluate the extent of conflicts of interest.

Ultimately, independent, conflict-free advice and management is the best cure for the industry’s problem. (For related reading, see: Why Investors Can Be Their Own Worst Enemy.)

***

The views expressed in this blog post are as of the date of the posting, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This blog contains certain statements that may be deemed forward-looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.
Please note that nothing in this blog post should be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any security or separate account. Nothing is intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with your own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances and needs. No advice may be rendered by Sherman Wealth unless a client service agreement is in place.
If you have any questions regarding this Blog Post, please Contact Us.
Brad Sherman

About Brad Sherman

Brad Sherman has over a decade of experience in the financial services industry. He founded Sherman Wealth Management because he believes that every client deserves the highest level of individualized attention, regardless of their age or the size of their financial profile. He prides himself on being an advocate for his clients, providing a Fiduciary, fee-only service, designed to make clients feel comfortable with their investment choices and strategies. Brad lives in Rockville, Maryland, and enjoys football – both fantasy and real, baseball – especially his beloved Nats, and Nerf Ball with his young son.

Comments

| No comments yet.



Engage us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter