Thursday, January 14, 2010

Target Date Funds Can Be "Way Off Target"

Tom Brakke, CFA, offers new criticism today on Morningstar of Target-Date Mutual Funds, despite this investment vehicle's reputation as one of the hottest investment products of the last decade.

According to Brakke, many target date funds were structured based upon questionable assumptions about asset classes and how they perform over time. "Historical returns, the variability of those returns, and the correlations among the returns of different types of assets were used in asset allocation models as if they were facts of nature." Brakke says many target date funds with a reference date of 2010 have received much attention, "since many who held the funds on the verge of retirement saw large losses in their account balances during 2008 (with some drops exceeding 30%)." Click here for the entire article. (Subscription may be required).

In Brakke's opinion the main flaw is that deciding that someone should have X% in equities and other risky assets without regard to the valuation of those assets ignores an important relationship: The probability that stocks will perform worse than their historical average return increases as valuations rise.