Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Y2K++

My employer has outsourced the administration of its 401(k) plan to TruSource, a division of Union Bank of California, N.A. This week I received annual enrollment material from TruSource. It contains generic blurbs about 401(k)s and retirement planning, in addition to material particular to our plan. Part of the latter is a summary page for each of the available investment options. These pages are clearly labeled "Copyright © 2005 Standard & Poor's, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies."

The page for each fund contains a graph of "GROWTH OF $10,000." I think the format and content are specified by the SEC, and they are presumably automatically generated from some kind of database. For some reason, I happened to look more closely than usual at one of the charts, and noticed something odd about the labeling of the year axis, and started inspecting them all. Most of them contain dates in the 31st and 41st centuries!

For example, the chart for the Pioneer High Yield Fund "(SINCE 03/31/98)" is labeled with consecutive years

4098 3099 2000 1001 4001 4002 2003 1004 4004 3005

Apparently the dates escaped the notice of the humans (if any) at McGraw-Hill and TruSource who were in the loop in the preparation of these documents. It is interesting to speculate what combination of programming errors would yield this precise sequence of dates.

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2 Comments:

Comment by Blogger Nic:

Completely speculative explaination... Could be that it should have been: 4/98 3/99 2/00 1/01 4/01 4/02 2/03 1/04 4/04 3/05, although the two dates in /04 is odd. Also it could be that some are 10/ e.g. 10/04...

Weird nonetheless...

10:20 AM  
Comment by Blogger Jim Horning:

Several people have contacted me to suggest that the second character in the dates is a Q (for Quarter), not a 0, and by looking closely at the original, I see that they are correct, making the series

4Q98 3Q99 2Q00 1Q01 4Q01 4Q02 2Q03 1Q04 4Q04 3Q05

As Andrew Greene noted: "What you're seeing is the usual poor job that automatic
charting software does of choosing which axis points get labeled when
there's not enough room to do them all."

12:24 PM  

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