“I recently changed jobs and have – for the first time – a 401(k) I can invest in. I am 26, make a good living, have been saving a fair amount of every paycheck, and I’m excited to get started on my 401(k). The company will invest 50% of what I invest up to 6% so I am absolutely going to do at least 6%. I want to get all the free money – just like you say on your radio show.
The plan we have has about twenty different choices. I’m not sure where to begin. I would really appreciate your advice.”
Congratulations. It appears you are making quite a collection of wise financial choices in your life. Your 401(k) plan is another wise choice. Getting all your ‘free money’ is another. Making sure your investment choices are right for you is very sound thinking as well.
First, your plan almost certainly has a default fund. This is an investment selected by the plan administrator to receive funds for people who wish to enroll, but are not sure which fund(s) to choose. Don’t wait. Enroll and if you haven’t yet decided where to direct your investments accept the default fund.
Second, your plan almost certainly has target date funds. This are funds that are designed to meet the needs of the ‘average’ employee expecting to retire around a date in the future. For example a Target Date 2050 fund would be appropriate for someone expecting to retire in about thirty (30) years. The fund manager will select packages of diversified investments to meet this target. One choice and you’re on your way.
Third, your plan almost certainly has a menu of additional investments (likely mutual funds) that might meet your needs. At your age, you will likely want to keep your choices in growth assets and away from fixed income, bonds, and stable value funds. You have forty (40) or so years until retirement. This gives you plenty of time to weather the (many) down investment cycles that will occur over those years.
And, of course, you don’t have to do any of this alone. Any quality advisor would welcome the opportunity to take the time to guide a young investor such as yourself. You should expect to spend an hour or so reviewing your options, having your questions answered, and walking out with a good investment plan that fits you.
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