Everything Has a Purpose

  • Smart diversification can deliver successful outcomes for target date fund investors throughout their savings journey, provided the diversification approach addresses the right risks at the right times. 
  • Here, we describe our perspective on managing the four risks that can have a profound effect on retirement plan returns:

o Accumulation Risk: Strategies that don’t account for young investors’ unique qualities can result in underperformance over the long term.
o Inflation Risk: Balancing efficient growth with protection against the erosion of purchasing power is a key concern for mid- to late-career investors.
o Longevity and Volatility Risks: As investors approach retirement, well-diversified strategies can maximize the value of assets saved and help protect those assets as retirees draw down an income.

Essential Diversification

Diversification is a foundational feature of target retirement strategies — but being essential has made it easy to overlook. Here, we will highlight how a strategy that offers thoughtfully selected asset classes can enable the more precise management of the critical issues savers face, as they face them. When it comes to true strategic diversification, every investment vehicle has a purpose.

Accumulation Risk

Young investors focus on accumulating assets, which often leads them to a stock-heavy asset allocation that increasingly mixes with US aggregate-bond exposure as time goes by. But this simple approach can miss opportunities to capitalize on the qualities that make a young investor unique.

For example, long government bonds provide multiple benefits for plan participants with longer time horizons. Adding a 10% allocation to long government bonds can allow State Street to provide approximately 95% of the expected return of an all-equity portfolio with less than 90% of the risk.1

On the stock side of the equation, State Street’s broadly diversified approach builds in more exposure to small- and mid-cap stocks for younger investors. Stocks of these companies offer investors greater long-term growth expectations in exchange for higher volatility — a tradeoff that can be more appropriate for investors with long time horizons.

Inflation Risk

While inflation has been largely contained for some time, it still represents a significant risk for retirement investors.

The first step in accounting for unexpected inflation risk is to provide a meaningful allocation to inflation-managing asset classes as participants approach retirement. Our approach involves complementing an allocation to Treasury inflation with additional asset classes such as commodities and real estate investment trusts (REITS), which can offer inflation management benefits at different points of the economic cycle along with higher long-term return expectations.

More Insights

16 August 2019 · By David Ireland

03 April 2019 · By Brendan Curran

Index-based target date funds (TDFs) are designed as fund-of-fund structures in which the exposure to individual stocks and bonds is obtained through investments in various underlying index funds.

11 December 2018 · By Brendan Curran

Here, we will use a case study to compare two different approaches to assessing active fixed income in target retirement strategies.

11 December 2018 · By James C Ryder

This approach allows State Street to meaningfully address inflation risk within the context of the other key risks that participants are facing, rather than viewing the problem in isolation.

We expect our more diversified mix of asset classes to add value across all environments, while providing crucial protection against the erosion of purchasing power. In stable markets where equity returns greatly exceed those of diversifying asset classes, this approach can lead to underperformance compared to those managers who de-emphasize inflationary risks. We believe that tradeoff is worthwhile, given the destructive impact that unexpected inflation can have on investor savings.

Balancing Longevity and Volatility Risks

As participants age, their balances grow, and their time horizons shorten, making volatility risk a more significant concern. The first, most obvious step in addressing this risk is to decrease the allocation to equities. Pursuing stabilization and reducing longevity risks are competing yet critical objectives that diversification can help manage simultaneously.

When it comes to our US equity allocation, we increase the number of large cap stocks in our allocation compared to the benchmark, capitalizing on their lower volatility relative to smaller cap stocks. For bonds, State Street uses six underlying funds to evolve our asset allocation intelligently, adding more diversified fixed income exposure to reduce volatility and protect against the impact of rising interest rates.

While managing volatility is crucially important, today’s retirees also face uncertainty around the length of the retirement period that they need to fund. At State Street, we believe that participants should be able to safely withdraw assets in retirement while limiting the probability of running out of money.

Our glidepath seeks to steeply reduce risk as participants approach and enter retirement, reaching its most conservative point at age 70, when research suggests that the majority of participants begin to draw down retirement savings.2

We believe that this approach best balances the needs of pre-retirees and retirees: preserving capital, combating inflation, and achieving enough growth to reduce the probability of outliving one’s assets.

Expertise Where and When it Matters

Not all diversification is equal. Simply expanding investments across countries doesn’t always create the desired portfolio diversification. In an intelligently diversified strategy, every component has a purpose. Diversification is often invisible and unsung until a market turn, at which point it can become the difference between a seamless retirement and one that’s difficult or delayed.

Please contact us for the full report.


1 FactSet Research Systems, as of March 31, 2018.

2 National Bureau of Economic Research, “The Composition and Draw-Down of Wealth in Retirement,” October 2011


The views expressed in this material are the views of SSGA Defined Contribution as at 28 January 2019, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions.

This document contains certain statements that may be deemed forward looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance, and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected.

The information provided does not constitute investment advice and it should not be relied on as such. It should not be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell a security. It does not take into account any investor’s particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status or investment horizon. Investing involves risk, including the risk of loss of principal. The whole or any part of this work may not be reproduced, copied or transmitted or any of its contents disclosed to third parties without SSGA’s express written consent.

SSGA Target Date Fund are designed for investors expecting to retire around the year indicated in each fund’s name.  When choosing a Fund, investors should consider whether they anticipate retiring significantly earlier or later than age 65 even if such investors retire on or near a fund’s approximate target date. There may be other considerations relevant to fund selection and investors should select the fund that best meets their individual circumstances and investment goals. The funds' asset allocation strategy becomes increasingly conservative as it approaches the target date and beyond. The investment risks of each Fund change over time as its asset allocation changes.

Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss.

Investing involves risk including the risk of loss of principal.

There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such.

The whole or any part of this work may not be reproduced, copied or transmitted or any of its contents disclosed to third parties without SSGA’s express written consent.

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Exp. July 31, 2020