Your 401(k) is likely your primary source of retirement money. Do your part to maximize the value of this account and you’ll make a worry-free transition to truly enjoyable golden years. Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help increase the value of your 401(k) fund.
Embrace an Aggressive Approach
Though the prospect of investing with an aggressive approach is inherently risky, doing so is in your interest if your aim is to grow your retirement savings in a timely manner. Adopt an aggressive approach with your 401(k) and the stage will be set to expand your retirement nest egg sooner than otherwise would have been possible. An aggressive approach in the context of a 401(k) does not mean you have to move the money to high-risk tech stocks that are comparably volatile. Rather, the better approach is to allocate more of your savings to stocks than bonds and other comparably low-risk securities.
As an example, plenty of 401(k) plans have target-date funds that shift money into aggressive assets and then revert them right back to comparably safe, low-risk assets as your date of retirement approaches. Seize the opportunity to use this fund and you won’t have to actively manage your plan. Rather, it will be automatically rebalanced on your behalf, helping you build your financial nest egg as you work and protect it in the years leading up to retirement.
Mind the Plan Fees
Putting your money into a 401(k) plan is not free. The fees included in the account are plucked right out of your growing financial nest egg. Perform your due diligence to find out the specific fee charged by the account manager. A plan with a fee that is only 1% higher than that of another plan has the potential to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run. Even if the plan’s percentage fee is fairly low to start, the potential for it to increase in the years ahead exists. Though it is not possible to completely sidestep these fees, it is in your interest to find a plan with a comparably low fee.
The operating costs of running a 401(k) stem from inherent expenses and fund fees. Plan expenses encompass the administrative costs necessary to manage the plan including tracking participants’ contributions and withdrawals. The fund fees include commissions stemming from trades to pay the salaries of portfolio managers to make decisions.
It is not in your financial interest to park your money in plans that have comparably high management fees. In particular, funds that are actively managed tend to have higher fees as they are managed by analysts who perform research on behalf of plan participants. This research requires time, effort and communication, ultimately hiking the plan management fees all the more. In comparison, index funds typically have lower fees as they are not actively managed. Such funds invest in shares of publicly traded companies listed on specific indexes. Choose an index fund and your yearly fees will likely be around 0.25% or slightly more. In contrast, an actively managed fund has the potential to have an inherent management fee of 1% or more.
Strategically Diversify Your Money
It is in your financial interest to diversify the money in your 401(k) account across several investment vehicles. Diversification makes it that much easier to offset the risk of a certain industry or investment vehicle in the event that there is a disruption in that space. Diversification should include stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, commodities, bonds and other investment vehicles. This way, if a single asset class significantly declines in value, the entirety of your 401(k) account will not suffer.
Add to Your 401(k) as Time Progresses
It is a mistake to save your money in a bank account for years or decades and transfer it to your 401(k) account in one fell swoop. Rather, the better approach is to gradually invest your money in this account so you can take advantage of the market’s overarching ebb and flow. The bottom line is no one can time the market just right unless they are lucky. Continue to add to your 401(k) each pay period moving forward and you will establish entry points in stocks at varying price levels, ultimately diversifying your risk against inevitable market undulations across posterity.
Maximize Contributions to Take Full Advantage of Employer Matching
If you are still working, you employer is likely willing to match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain level. Known as the “incentive match,” this matching has the potential to expedite your journey to retirement. Max out the incentive match with every paycheck and you will have doubled your 401(k) contribution with the assistance of your employer. In short, the incentive match is free money for retirement.
Rebalance as Necessary
Your portfolio’s positions will grow and shrink at varying rates. The portfolio as a whole has the potential to deviate from the target allocation as time progresses. Take a close look at your 401(k) at least once each year to determine if it should be rebalanced in terms of stocks, bonds and other securities.
The rebalancing of the plan from the current allocation ensures it aligns with the target allocation, ultimately helping to mitigate risk and maximize value. Rebalancing sells assets that are underappreciated and also those that appreciated, essentially selling at highs and buying at lows.
Take the Account With You When Changing Jobs
Most people change jobs several times in any given decade. Instead of cashing out your 401(k) with each professional transition and paying taxes along with the 10% penalty for early withdrawal, the better approach is to take the account with you to your new position.
If the balance is less than that required to retain the plan when making a professional transition, roll the money into an IRA so it can continue to grow. Alternatively, roll the money over into the new employer’s 401(k) and you’ll enjoy a seamless, tax-free, and penalty-free transition.
Pour Your Money Into the Account
Though it might seem obvious, allocating as much of your paycheck as possible to your 401(k) is the best way to maximize its value. Ideally, 20% or more of your annual earnings will be redirected to your 401(k). So don’t assume the default savings rate inherent to the plan when your employer enrolls new participants will prove optimal for your transition to your golden years. Save as much of your money as possible in this retirement account and you will reach retirement that much sooner. Make sure you don’t use your 401(k) funds to consolidate debts as that would deplete your savings. Although you will get a loan at a low interest rate without asking anyone’s favor, it would hurt you financially in the long run. You will have to pay a tax penalty and contribute more to rebuild your nest-egg.
Author’s Bio: This guest post was written by Lyle Solomon. Lyle has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. Since 2003, he has been a member of the State Bar of California. In 1998, he graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in California. He has contributed to publications such as Entrepreneur, All Business, US Chamber, Finance Magnates, Next Avenue, and many more.