5 Steps to Make the Most of Your 401(k)

iStock_000013346445MediumOnly 2 out of 10 American workers say they feel “very confident” about their plan for retirement. If you belong to the other 80 percent, you may worry that you won’t be adequately prepared to quit working when the time comes. Luckily, if your company offers you the chance to save via a 401(k) retirement fund, all you probably need to do is tweak your retirement planning. Take these five steps to make the most of your 401(k) retirement fund.

Assess your needs. It’s hard to know how much to sock away in your retirement fund, if you don’t first run the numbers! Use an online calculator, or meet with your financial planner to discuss your goals for retirement. Once you’ve settled on a savings goal, your 401(k) fund becomes your vehicle that will get you there.

Get the maximum employer match. Your employer may offer matching retirement funds, but you don’t automatically receive this money. Make sure you’re contributing at least the full amount that your company will match. It’s like getting free money!

Start saving more after age 50. Yes, it’s important to save as much as you can before age 50, too. But once you celebrate your fiftieth birthday, your contribution limits rise. Now you can stash an extra $6,000 dollars per year in your retirement account. At this point in your career, you may have reached your peak earnings potential, so take advantage of this opportunity!

Check your expense ratios. You may be paying higher fund fees than you really need to. Check with your financial planner to be sure you aren’t over-spending on fund fees. Keep in mind that index funds tend to carry lower fees, and could be a valuable part of your portfolio.

Don’t touch it. Resist the temptation to withdraw money from your retirement fund to pay for current expenses. Not only could you be slapped with a stiff penalty, but you will lose years’ worth of compounding interest on the money you withdraw. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to make up that lost money later.

14485 – 2015/5/13