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Using Funds From Only One Family Is An Awful Idea

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You must know about the shoemakers’ children and how they go barefoot and have no shoes. In the retirement plan industry, we have retirement plan providers and their employees’ retirement plan.

I know, I have been there. The third party administrator I once worked for didn’t have a great plan, it was often alleged we switched platforms to salvage our premier pricing with a certain insurance company. Don’t know if it was true, but that’s what was alleged.

So for me, it’s no surprise that mutual fund companies are being sued by former employees over their own 401(k) plan. While I don’t know all the facts and it will be decided in the courts, one fact (if true) fascinates me.

I often waste time analyzing irrational behavior through rational eyes and I always ponder: “what were they thinking?” So when I hear that part of the complaint is that all of the mutual funds in a mutual fund company’s plan were funds from that fund family, I ask: “what were they thinking?”

When you have thousands of mutual funds out there and hundreds of mutual fund companies, it’s just amazing that any plan sponsor (whether it’s a mutual fund company or not) thinks it’s prudent that every fund on the plan’s lineup is from the same mutual fund company. It doesn’t look right and it doesn’t look prudent, especially when there is no mutual fund company that has superior success in every sector of the market. In addition, any plan that only has funds from the same mutual fund company are often being administered by bundled providers who are mutual fund companies (i.e, plan being administered by T. Rowe Price with only T. Rowe Price funds). How is a plan sponsor able to offer a rational explanation that it was prudent to select mutual funds from one company? I don’t think they can, especially when the mutual fund company is one of the plan providers.

Often in the retirement plan business, if it doesn’t look right, there is usually something wrong. Any plan using the mutual funds from only one mutual fund company is a plan with something wrong.

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