A group of financial thought leaders was asked: what’s the biggest mistake people make with their 401(k)s? Here are their answers.
Not saving enough. Most experts say you should save at least 10% of your gross income, starting in your 20s, in order to have enough for retirement. If you’re not at this level, start by increasing your savings rate by 2%, which you’ll barely notice. Then go up another 2% in 3 to 6 months. Be persistent and you’ll get where you need to be.
Not maximizing contributions as early as possible. If you don’t maximize contributions as soon as you can, you’re not taking full advantage of the compounding and tax savings 401(k)s provide.
Missing out on your employer’s maximum matching contribution. Employers often match employee contributions in steps. But you have to contribute the amount that will trigger the maximum match for each step. Failing to contribute enough to get the employer match is just leaving money on the table.
Keeping your own company’s stock. If your company gives you stock, take it – but sell it as soon as you’re allowed. Company stock is great if the company does well. But if it folds, you lose your life savings along with your job.
Not acting your age. Young people can be more aggressive in their investment approach; older people should be more conservative. Unfortunately, many people act the opposite. They want to protect their hard-earned money when they’re young, then get aggressive trying to build funds fast as they approach retirement. But aggressive risks should be taken early when you’re years away from collecting the money. If you haven’t put enough away, don’t risk what you have. Instead, increase your contributions, and plan to work a little longer.
Not paying attention. With 401(k)s, people often neglect to monitor performance, fees, and asset allocation. Look at these issues at least once a year, preferably with the help of a financial professional, whom some companies provide.
Second-guessing your investment choices. The opposite of not paying attention is second guessing your investment decisions every time markets go down. Manage your plan by reviewing it in a disciplined manner.
Tapping into 401(k) funds now. People tap into their retirement money thinking that present wants are more important than future needs. Don’t do it. Your retirement savings are a priority!
Always consult your financial advisor about your investments.