Thursday, April 08, 2010

8 Do's and Don'ts For Your 401k


When it comes to saving for retirement and building a portfolio to last a lifetime, most Americans are way behind the eight ball -- and the nine ball and just about every other ball on the pool table.

More than 54% of Americans report that the total value of their household savings and investments, excluding the value of their primary homes and any defined-benefit plans, is less than $25,000, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute's annual Retirement Confidence Survey. What's worse, 27% have less than $1,000 in assets. Just 11% have more than $250,000 set aside.

Yes, those figures include Americans young and old, those just heading into the working world as well as those about to check out of it. But in the main, Americans need to modify their savings and spending patterns to have any hope of enjoying a standard of living to which, rightly or wrongly, they've become accustomed.

It's not rocket science, at least not according to experts. Here are some nest egg do's and don'ts from Hewitt Associates and Merrill Lynch.

1. Participate in your plan

If you're lucky enough to have a 401k at work, contribute to it. That will greatly improve your financial well-being, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which recently introduced a new tool designed to monitor and score the "financial wellness" of 401k plans in general and, by extension, the employees who participate in them.

The new tool looks at four plan-participant behaviors: saving, investing, setting and monitoring retirement goals, and nest-egg preservation. Not surprisingly, savings and investing behavior -- which represent 80% of the overall score -- are the primary drivers of financial wellness.

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