Press Release

Large 401(k) Plans Seek to Retain Retiree Assets, according to PIMCO Consultant Survey

Nearly three-quarters of sponsors advised by consultants want savers to keep assets in their 401(k) plans after they retire


Newport Beach, California (April 19, 2021) – Initially a vehicle to help Americans save for retirement, 401 (k) plans could become an important source of income for retirees when they stop working, according to the 15th Annual Defined Contribution Consulting Study conducted by PIMCO, one of the world’s premier fixed income investment managers.

Consultants who participated in the survey said approximately three-fourths of 401(K) sponsors prefer to keep participant assets in plan after they enter retirement, up from less than half in 2015. Allowing flexibility in income distribution, adding retirement education/tools and communicating the value of staying in plan, were among the most popular consultant recommendations for plans seeking to hold onto retiree assets.

“Demand for income will only increase as more Americans enter retirement and it is clear from the survey that plan sponsors are changing how they view 401(k)s from what historically had been a vehicle for savings to one that will generate income for participants,” says Rene Martel, PIMCO’s Head of Retirement.

PIMCO surveyed 47 consultants and advisory firms who serve over 33,000 clients with $6.7 trillion in total assets in defined contribution plans as part of the firm’s effort to capture the breadth of views in the industry as well as services available amid rapidly changing demographics of plan participants. Published results were based on responses from firms with more than $10 billion in DC assets under management.

“The survey’s findings reflect the ongoing changes in defined contribution – a pivot to solutions for retirement income, best practices for default fund/target date funds, evaluation of ESG products, etc. – and provide invaluable insights for sponsors and consultants who want to best serve end investors,” says Julie Meggers, PIMCO’s Global Head of Consultant Relations.

Other survey findings:

  • Target-date funds remain the most recommended Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA), with all consultants and advisors surveyed ranking it their number one choice. More than two-thirds of institutional consultants said reviewing TDFs was a top priority, indicating they are keeping a close eye on fees and performance. 
  • The majority of consultants recommend a blend of actively-managed and passive funds for core investments, with more than 90% preferring an active/passive blend for equities and 87% favoring all-active for capital preservation. Of the survey respondents, 67% preferred an active/passive blend in fixed income, with the others favoring all-active.
  • Interest in ESG investment options continues to grow, with over a half of consultants already or planning to recommend sustainable options; however, 54% of those surveyed said they needed to have greater regulatory/legal comfort before implementing an ESG solution.

A summary of the survey’s key findings can be found here:

About the Survey

In its 15th year, the PIMCO US Defined Contribution Consulting Study seeks to help consultants, advisors and plan sponsors understand the breadth of views and consulting services available within the defined contribution (DC) marketplace. Our 2021 study captures data, trends and opinions from 47 consulting and advisory firms who serve over 33,000 clients with aggregate DC assets in excess of $6.7 trillion. All responses were collected from January 4, 2021 through February 26, 2021. Published results were based on responses from firms with more than $10 billion in DC assets under management.

Media Contacts

Michael Reid
Global Head of Corporate Communications – New York

Agnes Crane
U.S. Corporate Communications – New York

Joy Sheetz
U.S. Corporate Communications – New York

Laura Batty
U.S. Corporate Communications – Newport Beach

Lisa Papas
U.S. Corporate Communications – Newport Beach

Laura Thomas
UK & EMEA Corporate Communications – London
+44 203 640 1520

Wendy Svirakova
UK & EMEA Corporate Communications – London
+44 203 640 1237

Li Anne Wong
APAC Corporate Communications – Singapore
+65 6491 8068


About PIMCO 

PIMCO is one of the world’s premier fixed income investment managers. With our launch in 1971 in Newport Beach, California, PIMCO introduced investors to a total return approach to fixed income investing. In the 50 years since, we have continued to bring innovation and expertise to our partnership with clients seeking the best investment solutions. Today we have offices across the globe and professionals united by a single purpose: creating opportunities for investors in every environment. PIMCO is owned by Allianz S.E., a leading global diversified financial services provider.

All investments contain risk and may lose value. Investors should consult their investment professional prior to making an investment decision.

The survey results contain the opinions of the respondents at the time of the survey and may not reflect current opinions or investment strategies. These results may or may not match the views of PIMCO and are not intended to be reflective of PIMCO’s opinions on the market or any particular investment style or strategy. This material is distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed.

Except for the historical information and discussions contained herein, statements contained in this news release constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements may involve a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially, including the performance of financial markets, the investment performance of PIMCO's sponsored investment products and separately managed accounts, general economic conditions, future acquisitions, competitive conditions and government regulations, including changes in tax laws. Readers should carefully consider such factors. Further, such forward-looking statements speak only on the date at which such statements are made. PIMCO undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of such statements.