Personalized Retirement Advice and Managed Accounts: Who Uses Them and How Does Advice Affect Behavior In 401(k) Plans?

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This paper investigates two methods for improving participants’ asset allocations in their 401(k) plans: personalized online advice and managed account services. This paper uses a unique new dataset of individual-level administrative data from one 401(k) plan and recommendation data from an advice provider. Preliminary results suggest that online advice and the managed account service appeal to different populations. Managed accounts tend to be attractive to individuals across most demographic groups, while the online advice appeals more to higher salaried, full-time workers. In addition, individuals who show a predisposition to seek advice are more likely to use one of the methods than to do nothing. Finally, although a causal relationship cannot be determined, trading activity is higher for those using the online advice system compared to those who do nothing. Future research will investigate in more detail how portfolio allocations and trading are influenced by use of the two systems.