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Target investment dates should be the easiest way to invest and make money on a popular choice in 401 (k) plans. But the recent market downturn has shown that some target date strategies have suffered greater losses than others, especially for investors with retirement savings.

Target attachment date really protected retirees from the full force of the sale. While the US Total shares lost 33% over the 30-day period ending March 20th. The fund’s average target date for people retiring in 2020 has dropped 17%, says Leo Echeson, director of ratings for several Morningstar assets. However, losses among some popular funds range from 13% to 23%, reflecting sharp differences in how investments are built.

“Some of these 2020 funds you can look at them and think they’re probably very similar to each other,” Echeson says. “But if you look at the hood, you’ll find that in fact some 2020 funds risk much more than other 2020 funds.”

By itself, large losses lead to a good reason to contribute to an investment. The same strategy that offers you heartburn can bring higher average returns later. However, when it comes to retirement, you want to be sure that your investment strategy remains meaningless. You have less time to replenish losses – and more risk of running out of money.

How target date strategies work

Target investment dates consist of two forms: mutual funds, which are provided on brokerage and pension pension plans, and collective investment funds, which are only in the workplace plans. Although people use target date strategies in IRAs and taxable accounts, they are especially popular in 401 (k) s. In one Fidelity survey, it was found that approximately half of all pension fund assets exempt from taxes are invested in targeted date options.

The name comes from the fact that the mix of stocks and bonds is becoming more conservative as the target date – usually the year the investor plans to retire – gets closer. The “Target Date 2020” option is intended for those who will retire soon, while the 2060 target date is intended for retirement, which is 40 years old.

How do target date strategies differ

A lie where the similarity ends, however. Investment companies that offer these products choose different initial mixes of stocks and bonds, as well as different “slip” or rates at which the mix is ​​adjusted. On average, the target date strategy for 2020 was 43% of the portfolios invested in equities, but one fund had 55% in equities and the other only 8%, Acheson says.

There are also different types of investments. For example, some funds, which are more conservative in the distribution of their shares, risk earning their bonds by choosing corporate bonds or even high-yield “junk” bonds in the US. Treasury and other public debt. These riskier bonds offer better yields in good times, but often fall into extreme recessions when investors flee to government bond security.

Among other things, investment companies tinker with their formulas, so the strategy that exists in the initial investment may change before retirement.

So did the investor go do it?

Understanding how your target date works takes time and research. Your supplier or brokerage 401 (k) will be able to provide you with information, including how the investment slide works, its cost ratio and how to compare them to industry averages. Then you have to decide whether it is comfortable to approach it, given the expected risks and profitability.

If you decide you are not happy with your current choice, you have options. If you go into a retirement plan, you can choose a different date (e.g., the 2015 fund if you think the 2020 option is too risky, or the 2025 target date if you want to take more risks) that can’t switch providers to target dates. since most 401 (k) offer only one. If your money is in an IRA or taxable account, you can switch providers as well as target dates.

Getting good advice is something you should do anyway before retirement because many retirement decisions are irreversible and mistakes can make your life much less comfortable. In addition, our ability to avoid financial mistakes has been declining since the 1950s, although our confidence in these abilities remains high. Working with a trusted advisor can help us avoid blind spots that can be costly.

All of this functionality is the exact opposite of the approach you’ll most likely want when you complete a target date. But staying on hand – or making changes without professional advice – can mean losses that will lead your pension into a ditch.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by the Associated Press.

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