Mutual incomprehension

AMERICANS who want a comfortable retirement, and who work in the private sector, have to look after their own interests these days. No longer can most rely on their employer to pay a pension linked to their final salary; such defined-benefit promises are too expensive.

Instead, workers are promised something called a defined-contribution (DC) pension which, truth be told, isn’t a pension at all. It is a savings pot to which employers and employees contribute, with some tax advantages. How big that pot will be, and what kind of income it will provide, is unknown.

Most of those savings will probably be invested in mutual funds. Yet as William Birdthistle, an academic lawyer, writes in an entertaining new book*, small investors need to become better informed about the way mutual funds work.

One might think, for example, that all investors in a fund are treated equally. But Mr Birdthistle cites a set of JPMorgan equity funds which have seven different types of shares, with opaque names such as Class R5. The main difference tends to be the fees that funds charge. Small investors usually pay most, even those in some DC schemes. These fees…Continue reading

This post was originally published in the Economist.

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Mutual incomprehension

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