The qualified default investment alternative (“QDIA”) is arguably the most important investment in a plan’s investment menu. By far the most often selected QDIA investment is a target date fund (“TDF”). TDFs are typically the only investment selection that offers unitized professionally managed portfolios that reflect the participants’ time horizon today and as they go to and through retirement.
TDFs are tied to the anticipated year of your retirement. Retiring in 2035? The 2035 TDF is the easy pick. This portfolio will be professionally managed to become more conservative as you approach your retirement. This de-risking is based on an investment “glide path” which contains more aggressive investments during the participant’s younger years and utilizes more conservative investments as retirement approaches.
TDF QDIA selection is important for plan fiduciaries as well. The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has indicated that if the TDF has been prudently selected and commensurate with the plan’s participant demographics, the suite meets certain structure requirements, and required notices are provided, fiduciary liability mitigation would be available. Prudent process entails identifying your participant demographic needs. Your participant demographic need may tend towards a low-risk portfolio (e.g. participants are on track for a satisfactory retirement), or perhaps a more aggressively positioned portfolio (e.g. less savings so the need to obtain higher returns), or perhaps a multiple glidepath approach for a financially non-homogenous population.
Prudence of TDF selection is also determined by cost relative to other TDFs with similar risk levels, as well as the quality of underlying investments.