A recent paper publishes the results of analysing over 1 million 401(k) accounts in the U.S. over the period 2007-2008.
The research found, among other things, that account logins fell by 11% after market falls. In other words, investors did not want to see the damage done to their portfolios after the market fell (aka the Ostrich Effect).
The research generally found that investor attention to their portfolios (and, to a slightly lesser extent, their trading activity) was influenced by demographics (age, gender) and financial situation (wealth).
For example, the authors analysed the relationship between frequency of account logins and investor age (see following chart).
The authors interpreted the results as showing that middle-aged people were (in effect) busy with other matters, whereas older people were concerned about their retirement pots and younger people were happy to play with the online service.
Further analysis looked at the relationship between account activity and size of account (see following chart).
Not surprisingly, there was a positive correlation here: the larger the account the more frequent the portfolio checks. But the increase in account logins tend to tail off above an account size of $500,000. (By extension, it can be assumed that Warren Buffett isn’t logging in too regularly to his check his 401(k) account).
Sicherman, Nachum and Loewenstein, George and Seppi, Duane J. and Utkus, Stephen P., Financial Attention (October 10, 2013).
Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2339287 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2339287