Date of Award

Fall 1-12-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Finance

First Advisor

Vikas Agarwal

Second Advisor

Gerald Gay

Third Advisor

Jayant Kale

Fourth Advisor

Conrad Ciccotello

Abstract

Target-Date Funds (TDFs) facilitate retirement planning by varying asset allocation over time with the goal of reducing portfolio risk. We explore potential agency problems in TDFs by examining their return performance and flow-performance relation. We find that TDFs under-perform balanced funds (BFs) which are also approved as a default option along with TDFs in 401(k) plans with automatic enrollment. We show that the under-performance is driven by TDFs that have a fund-of-fund structure and constituent funds with high expense ratios or poor performance within the fund family. Additionally, we discover an absence of flow-performance relation in TDFs while BFs exhibit the convex flow-performance relation shown for mutual funds. Our evidence suggests the presence of agency problems in TDFs arising from investor inertia, weak incentives for fund managers to outperform peers, and opportunities for fund families to gain private benefits.

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