Everything seemed to be going well for future retirees a few years back. The economy was stable, the stock market was riding high and assets in 401(k) defined-contribution plans were galloping in value. Participants boasted about being able to retire at age 60, an almost quaint recollection now, since they're still at their desks, wondering what went wrong. Employers that sponsor these plans are wondering the same thing. Workers who can't retire for financial reasons and hang on to their jobs for longer than their employers would like aren't easy to shed.

This can create productivity problems, since the employees aren't exactly happy about the situation, either. And if workers blame plan sponsors for the paltry value of their retirement investments, it heightens corporate fiduciary risk. Under ERISA, fiduciaries can be held personally liable for losses to a benefit plan incurred as a result of alleged errors, omissions or breach of their fiduciary duties.

Now there is a relatively new way of helping employees invest in their retirements. Called tiered investment strategies, the approach aligns particular types of investments with the investing appetite and inclinations of plan participants. If you're someone who likes to call the shots on your investments, there is a tier for that. If you're at the other end of the spectrum and want nothing to do with how your money is invested, there's a tier for that, too.

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