What the “F” ? – Part 1 – Funds


No this entry is not about all of the things that your participants and employees might do to make you go “What the “F”?” (although I am you all have some great stories). Instead over the next four weeks, I will be covering the four topics that should be top of mind for plan administrators, investment committees, and human resource professionals concerning plan management. Today’s “F” is Funds. 

A fund or mutual fund is defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a company that brings together money from many people and invests it in stocks, bonds or other assets. The combined holdings of stocks, bonds, or other assets the fund owns are known as its portfolio. Each investor in the fund owns share, which represent a part of these holdings. As someone who works on your company’s 401(k) plan it is important to have a good understanding of how mutual funds work since mutual funds are the most common investment vehicles offered in 401(k) plans. According to FINRA’s website (www.finra.org) the majority of 401(k) plans offer 8 – 12 investment options, but I have seen plans out there that offer 40 + mutual fund options. There are certainly different schools of thought as it pertains to the number of investment options that you should make available to your plan participants. Some committees believe the more the merrier; that by offering a large number of options, their participants will be able to design a portfolio that works best for them. Others believe, limit the plan options to a handful of funds that represent the main asset classes (equity, fixed income, and cash).   We tend to believe that the plan should offer the fund option in each of the 404(c) style boxes: large, mid and small cap in the growth, value and blend categories with a additional options in international and fixed income.

Another important aspect of your plan’s investment menu is the Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA). Your plan’s QDIA is the fund or funds that a participant defaults into if he or she falls to make an investment election. Under the Department of Labor’s guidelines, a QDIA may be a life-cycle or targeted-retirement-date fund, a balanced fund or a professionally managed account. The committee should take the task of selecting a QDIA very seriously because if used correctly, it can offer the plan and its fiduciaries valuable safe harbor protections.

Regardless of the number of funds in your plan or what option you have designated as the QDIA, one thing is constant: the fiduciaries of the plan have an ongoing responsibility to monitor the investment options. In the Tibble v. Edison case, the Supreme Court sent a clear message that the fiduciaries of a qualified retirement plan have an ongoing duty to monitor fund investment choices. A quote taken from the ruling reads “The trustee must systematically consider all investment of the trust at regular intervals to ensure that they are appropriate.” Please note this case did not center around fund performance or if one asset class is better than another, but rather underscored the importance of having a prudent process for review and decisions to keep or remove a fund option.

In this blog edition, I mentioned several industry terms like 404(c), QDIA and the prudent process required for monitoring funds. If you or the your investment committee are unsure if you have one or all of these in place, please contact me and we can further discuss the importance of this “F” to successfully running your 401(k) plan.



Investments are subject to risk, including the loss of principal. Because investment return and principal value fluctuate, shares may be worth more or less than their original value. Some investments are not suitable for all investors, and there is no guarantee that any investing goal will be met. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Talk to your financial advisor before making any investing decisions.

Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the mutual fund, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

Jamie Kertis, AIF®, QKAjamie kertis headshot
Retirement Plan Specialist
Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial
1950 Stonegate Drive / Suite 275 /Birmingham, AL 35242
Office: 205.970.9088 / Toll-Free: 866.695.5162

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