I’m a huge football fan, so this time of year — the playoffs! — is especially exciting. And of course, the NFL playoffs are at their best when you can get a good nail-biter of a game that comes down to the final play — Exhibit A, last weekend’s overtime win by the Denver Broncos  against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Obviously, though, there are times when a nail biter is not what you’d prefer. I’m thinking the years closest to retirement are among those times. However, according to new data from Morningstar, if target-date fund performance doesn’t improve, a bunch of near-retirees will be tanking, not Tebowing.

The average TDF with about four years until its target date fell 0.4% last year, Morningstar found, the Wall Street Journal reports. That’s compared to the S&P 500, which gained 2% and the  Barclays Capital Aggregate Bond Index, which rose almost 8%.

Ouch.

"We had a real 'stress test' in the first nine months of 2011, and the industry failed," Ron Surz, a retirement-plan consultant and president of Target Date Solutions, told WSJ.

This isn’t the first time TDFs have missed the mark, and the funds’ poor aim has drawn the attention of everyone from advisors to lawmakers.

When an NFL kicker misses the uprights too many times, he gets fired. Is it time to put TDFs on the bench? Or, is there a way the funds can fix their aim? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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