Does the number of funds offered in a defined contribution plan affect how many funds a consumer chooses to invest in or how he or she spreads dollars across the funds chosen? Across three experiments and the analysis of defined contribution plan data from TIAA-CREF, the authors explore these issues by examining investors’ tendency to engage in the 1/n heuristic—allocating their dollars evenly across all available investment options. The authors decompose this heuristic into its two underlying behavioral dimensions: the tendency to invest in all available funds (which they label 1/n#) and the tendency to spread the invested dollars evenly across chosen funds (which they label 1/n$).
The authors argue that choosing from larger mutual fund assortments in retirement plans (e.g., 401(k)s) taxes investors’ cognitive resources, which leads to reliance on more simplified diversification strategies. They find that increasing the number of mutual funds that investors can choose from decreases the tendency to invest in all available mutual funds (1/n#) but increases the tendency to spread the invested dollars evenly among the chosen alternatives (1/n$)—provided that the number of funds chosen for investment allows for easy equal dollar allocations. That is, if investors have chosen a number of funds that makes it relatively easy to evenly divide their dollars across their chosen funds, they are more likely to do so if they have chosen their funds from a larger (vs. smaller) mutual fund assortment. The findings have implications for both fiduciaries responsible for constructing defined contribution plan formats and employees responsible for constructing their own retirement plan investment portfolios. The authors integrate their results with prior research regarding asset choice and allocation heuristics.
Maureen Morrin is Professor of Marketing at Rutgers University School of Business in Camden, New Jersey. Her research interests include sensory marketing, brand equity and trademark protection, and financial decision making. Her work has been published in journals such as Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, and Journal of Consumer Psychology. She is a member of the editorial review board of Journal of Marketing and is an area editor at Journal of Consumer Psychology. She has received several research and teaching awards. She teaches business analytics, database marketing, and consumer analysis. Professor Morrin is a graduate of New York University (PhD), where she was a Consortium Fellow. She also is a graduate of Thunderbird, the American Graduate School of International Management (MBA), and Georgetown University (BSFS). Her background includes five years of corporate work experience in advertising and brand management.
J. Jeffrey Inman joined the faculty of the Katz School at the University of Pittsburgh in 2000 as the Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing. He was named the Albert Wesley Frey Professor of Marketing in 2003. Before joining Katz, he was on the faculties at the University of Wisconsin (1994–2000) and the University of Southern California (1991–94). He currently is on the editorial board of Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, Marketing Science, Journal of Consumer Psychology, and Journal of Retailing. He is also associate editor at Journal of Marketing Research and International Journal of Research in Marketing. Professor Inman’s interests include investor decision making, shopper in-store decision making, and channel blurring (e.g., grocery store vs. drug store). His work has been published in Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Journal of Retailing, and Marketing Letters. Before entering academia, he worked at General Motors as a production supervisor and at Texas Instruments Inc. as a semiconductor distribution manager.
Susan M. Broniarczyk is the Sam Barshop Centennial Professor in Marketing Administration in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research examines consumer decision making with a focus on brand and product management and external information sources. She is the recipient of the American Marketing Association Howard Dissertation Award for her research on brand extension, the Society for Consumer Psychology Early Career Contribution Award, and Journal of Marketing Research O’Dell Award and Journal of Retailing Davidson Award for her research on product assortment. Her research has been published in numerous leading academic journals and been featured in the media including Time Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, and U.S. News and World Report. She serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Marketing Research, and Journal of Marketing and has been active in the Association for Consumer Research.
Gergana Y. Nenkov received her PhD from the Katz Business School at the University of Pittsburgh and is currently Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Professor Nenkov’s research examines how different modes of thinking about the future affect two aspects of consumers’ decision making: their exertion of self-control and their use of heuristics. Her research focuses on understanding the motivations behind suboptimal or irrational consumer choices in contexts such as planning for retirement and healthy nutrition with the ultimate goal of developing methods to improve the consumer decision-making process. Professor Nenkov’s research has been published at top academic journals such as Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, and Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Jonathan Reuter is an Assistant Professor of Finance in the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on explaining both individual financial decision making and the strategic responses of financial institutions, such as mutual fund families and the financial media, that compete to serve individual investors. His work has been published in journals such as Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Finance, and Journal of Financial Economics. Several of his ongoing research projects have been funded by grants from the U.S. Social Security Administration. He holds a BA in Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Journal of Marketing Research, Volume 49, Number 4, August 2012
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