We are a nation of over abundance and we should be grateful for that. The problem is that over abundance can lead to a life of excess. We are often told that more is more and the problem is that there are many times where less is more.
When it comes to participant directed 401(k) plans, one of the greatest examples of over excess is a fund lineup. There are thousands and thousands of mutual funds out there, so many financial advisors and plan sponsors think they should contain as many funds as they can. You often find plans with 20+ mutual funds in the lineup and I once came across one plan with 53 different investment options. Why so serious about this issue? It’s pretty simple.
Studies have shown that too many funds on a plan’s investment lineup actually lowers the rate at which participants defer their salary in a 401(k) plan. Why? Too many funds, especially in one asset class have the ability to confuse and overwhelm plan participants and overwhelmed plan participants are less likely to defer than those that aren’t.
The solution? Start pruning a plan’s fund lineup. I think 12 are more than enough funds in a lineup, maybe 15 at tops. No need for 25 or 53, there is any reason for three large cap growth funds in any lineup. Plan sponsors need to have their employees defer in a 401(k) plan for a wide variety of reasons, so why get in the way with too many funds on the investment lineup?