Wednesday, October 17, 2007

AIG VALIC Launches New Low-Cost, No-Load Mutual Fund Platform in 403(b) Market

AIGVALIC, the largest purveyor of 403(b) products to k-12 school districts has launched a "no-load" product called the "Profile Retirement Program". Interestingly enough the program is not to be easily found, or found at all on their website and the press release that appears above on BusinessWire is not found on their Press Room section of their website......wierd. Is it possible that this program is simply a ploy to answer the critics that their products are too expensive? They can now say, "but we have a no-load product". This isn't a serious attempt to help employees lower costs, it appears to just be PR - otherwise why an announcement, but no details.

The product is available through 403(b) Compare, but the disclosure is not exactly eye-opening either as they give a range of fees, not the exact fee. The underyling investment options appear to be priced around .70%, with the S & P fund priced at .36%. However, AIGVALIC can charge a wrap fee of up to 1.00% and up to an additional .65% if the "Guided Portfolio" is chosen. Doesn't sound low-cost, but at least it's no-load!

I'll give you more information if and when AIGVALIC decides to distribute it.

In a parallel story, the NEA has come out with their own no-load product (about five years after saying they would do so). The name of the product is DirectInvest Online and is also a difficult product to find out information on. It is not registered on 403bCompare.com and thus not available in California. I had to type in "directinvest" in the search box at www.neamb.com and then click on a press release, which then had a link to the special website. If you are looking for this product to be marketed on the "Investments" section you will not find it. The website is located here. Amazingly there is little info on this site unless you really dig - for example, the fact sheets for each investment option do not list the expense ratio of the fund.....how difficult would that be to add to a sheet that is supposed to give THE FACTS?

There are four index funds and the Target Date's are done by T. Rowe Price, a good company.

The main question an investor must ask themselves is why they would choose AIGVALIC or NEA Valuebuilder for their 403(b)? Neither product is that low in cost, though they are no-load and there are much better choices out there for individuals if they want to go direct. These two products might be alluring for those individuals in school districts that have a limited provider list and offer the high cost VALIC and Valuebuilder products - through those payroll slots you should be able to access these lower cost, no-load products and thus have at least a decent option.....that is of course if you can find out any information on them.


Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, MSFP, AIF
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