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Mutual Fund Investing Through Employer‐Sponsored Pension Plans: Investor Knowledge and Policy Implications

Gordon J. Alexander (University of Minnesota and Office of Economic Analysis of the Securities and Exchange Commission)
Jonathan D. Jones (Division of Risk Management, The Office of Thrift Supervision)
Peter J. Nigro (Economic and Policy Analysis of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Article publication date: 1 August 1997


The flow of cash funds from employer‐sponsored pension plans into mutual funds has been an important driving force behind the mutual fund industry's unprecedented recent growth. The increased attractiveness of mutual funds to pension investors is due to a shift from defined benefit to defined contribution plans, to changes in the tax laws, and to the growing recognition of certain types of mutual funds as suitable long‐term investment vehicles. Accompanying the tremendous growth in defined contribution plans, however, has been a shift in investment risk from employers to employees. Using the responses from a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 mutual fund shareholders, this paper analyzes various characteristics and investment knowledge of purchasers of mutual funds through employer‐sponsored pension plans. The results show that overall, pension investors are as knowledgeable about the costs, risks, and returns associated with mutual funds as investors who purchase mutual funds through other distribution channels. However, when dividing the sample of pension‐plan investors into two subsamples consisting of those who purchase mutual funds solely through the pension channel and those also employing other distribution channels, pension‐channel‐only investors are found to be significantly less knowledgeable. These results suggest that there is much room for improvement in investor education for a large segment of pension‐channel investors.


Alexander, G.J., Jones, J.D. and Nigro, P.J. (1997), "Mutual Fund Investing Through Employer‐Sponsored Pension Plans: Investor Knowledge and Policy Implications", Managerial Finance, Vol. 23 No. 8, pp. 5-29.




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