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Consistency, Protection Trump Outperforming the Market

Industry Trends and Research

Consistent performance and downside protection are valued more by DC plan participants than funds that seek to outperform the market are, according to a recent report. 

Concern over recent market volatility has made participants less confident regarding the performance of their retirement plan fund investments, reports Blackrock in its 2019 DC Pulse survey. The report indicates that among the more than 1,000 plan participants BlackRock surveyed, 39% felt that their investments were performing as well as expected, 10 percentage points lower than in 2018. The 2019 results mark the first time since 2016 that such confidence fell from the year before. 

For their part, plan sponsors told BlackRock that they are confident — that is, confident that the market will continue to be a rollercoaster this year. But a majority are linking that expectation to action: 75% of plan sponsors said that they are reevaluating their retirement plan’s core fixed income option to better manage risk and return. 

And those concerns over investments are all the more significant given BlackRock’s finding that participants’ concerns about retirement income have risen sharply in just a year. 


% of Participants Holding the View, 2018

% of Participants Holding the View, 2019

Change from 2018 to 2019

Difficult to know how retirement savings will translate into monthly retirement income 









+11 percentage points

Unsure how to calculate retirement spending in advance






+12 percentage points

Worried about generating one’s own retirement income






+14 percentage points

Large percentages of survey respondents said they want help with making their income streams during retirement consistent and secure, BlackRock says: 90% said that a diversified fund that automatically converts to a guaranteed retirement income stream is appealing, and 80% said that it would be helpful if their employer provided secure income options in the retirement plan it offers. 

The good news for that 80% is that 96% of the plan sponsors that BlackRock surveyed agree that providing such options can be helpful to employees. Furthermore, 67% of plan sponsors report that they are providing employees with tools that focus on retirement savings withdrawals, up 16 percentage points from the number that did so last year. And 22% say they plan to offer such tools in the future. 

The 2019 DC Pulse survey is online here. To read our previous post about other findings from the broad-ranging study, including TDFs and ESG offerings, click here.