Essays on asset allocation strategies for defined contribution plans

Basu, Anup K. (2008) Essays on asset allocation strategies for defined contribution plans. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Asset allocation is the most influential factor driving investment performance. While researchers have made substantial progress in the field of asset allocation since the introduction of mean-variance framework by Markowitz, there is little agreement about appropriate portfolio choice for multi-period long horizon investors. Nowhere this is more evident than trustees of retirement plans choosing different asset allocation strategies as default investment options for their members. This doctoral dissertation consists of four essays each of which explores either a novel or an unresolved issue in the area of asset allocation for individual retirement plan participants. The goal of the thesis is to provide greater insight into the subject of portfolio choice in retirement plans and advance scholarship in this field. The first study evaluates different constant mix or fixed weight asset allocation strategies and comments on their relative appeal as default investment options. In contrast to past research which deals mostly with theoretical or hypothetical models of asset allocation, we investigate asset allocation strategies that are actually used as default investment options by superannuation funds in Australia. We find that strategies with moderate allocation to stocks are consistently outperformed in terms of upside potential of exceeding the participant’s wealth accumulation target as well as downside risk of falling below that target by very aggressive strategies whose allocation to stocks approach 100%. The risk of extremely adverse wealth outcomes for plan participants does not appear to be very sensitive to asset allocation. Drawing on the evidence of the previous study, the second essay explores possible solutions to the well known problem of gender inequality in retirement investment outcomes. Using non-parametric stochastic simulation, we simulate iv and compare the retirement wealth outcomes for a hypothetical female and male worker under different assumptions about breaks in employment, superannuation contribution rates, and asset allocation strategies. We argue that modest changes in contribution and asset allocation strategy for the female plan participant are necessary to ensure an equitable wealth outcome in retirement. The findings provide strong evidence against gender-neutral default contribution and asset allocation policy currently institutionalized in Australia and other countries. In the third study we examine the efficacy of lifecycle asset allocation models which allocate aggressively to risky asset classes when the employee participants are young and gradually switch to more conservative asset classes as they approach retirement. We show that the conventional lifecycle strategies make a costly mistake by ignoring the change in portfolio size over time as a critical input in the asset allocation decision. Due to this portfolio size effect, which has hitherto remained unexplored in literature, the terminal value of accumulation in retirement account is critically dependent on the asset allocation strategy adopted by the participant in later years relative to early years. The final essay extends the findings of the previous chapter by proposing an alternative approach to lifecycle asset allocation which incorporates performance feedback. We demonstrate that strategies that dynamically alter allocation between growth and conservative asset classes at different points on the investment horizon based on cumulative portfolio performance relative to a set target generally result in superior wealth outcomes compared to those of conventional lifecycle strategies. The dynamic allocation strategy exhibits clear second-degree stochastic dominance over conventional strategies which switch assets in a deterministic manner as well as balanced diversified strategies.

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ID Code: 16992
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Drew, Michael E.
Keywords: asset allocation, bootstrap resampling, defined contribution (DC) plan, downside risk, dynamic lifecycle strategy, expected tail loss (ETL), lifecycle fund, lower partial moment (LPM), monte carlo simulation (MCS), stochastic dominance (SD), tail risk, terminal wealth, value at risk (VaR)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Economics & Finance
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 17 Dec 2008 02:28
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011 13:52

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