My 401k Account: What Do I Do Now?

by | Feb 26, 2011 | Asset Management, Retirement Planning

Because your 401k account is growing more and more important to you, the roller coaster swings in the stock market really frustrate the hell out of you.  You have worked hard, and focused on managing your career, not your 401k.   Now must you focus on managing your 401k too? So what do you do with your 401(k)?

I’ve heard many say their 401k is an out-of-control pool of money.  They have no guidance, no information and are too damn busy to monitor this on a daily — or even monthly — basis.

But this 401k account is the money you will need to retire on.  Pensions and social security may not be guaranteed to be there down the road.   I meet a lot of folks who are hoping the market is rallying when it is time to retire.  Otherwise, they are screwed in big trouble.

My 401(k):  How Do You Get This Money Under Control?

Your day to day responsibilities at work do not include reviewing the mutual fund choices in your 401k at work.
You’ve called the “Help Desk” for more information about the investment choices in your 401k, and find lots of young, helpful, cheery people.  The person you won’t meet… the one who is willing to say “you dunce, get OUT of that fund before it’s too late!”

You have asked:

  • Your broker,

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    401k Help Center: Not Always Helpful

  • Your financial adviser,
  • The folks on the toll free line …for guidance.
  • And you’ve tried managing this money on your own.

My 401k: Why can’t the Help Desk actually… “Help”?

The help desk will not help you because:
They either work at a call-center.  Five minutes later they may (conceivably) be answering calls for a pest control company.   Or may not even be in the same country as you.

You may be lucky enough to be speaking with a representative from the company, someone who may actually hold a securities license.  But they don’t know you — or your situation, how much help will they actually be?  Will they say “Oh no, you didn’t invest in THAT fund, did you?”

Here is the Big Problem: The Call Center guy is *prohibited* from offering investment advice.

Isn’t that the dumbest thing you have ever heard?   But it is true.   Yet they continue to boast “if you need help, just call.”   What many 401k investors do not know is that the help line is limited to only discussing the choices available to you in the 401k plan, and help you make a transaction between funds.  No advice!

Lovely, right?

So the people on the company 401k “help line” cannot “help me” with the “help” I need the most?
Right.  The folks at the other end of the line are either unlicensed employees of a brokerage firm (or licensed employees of a brokerage firm).   Unable to take the fiduciary responsibility of providing investment advice.

My 401-k: Can my broker/financial planner help me?

It’s possible.  But just suppose:  you meet with your planner or broker once or twice a year to review.  Then, what happens if the markets change right after we meet?  What if the money in my 401k account is neck-deep in emerging market funds, and all hell breaks loose on the other side of the globe?  Or what if we have put everything into bonds and interest rates begin to climb?

It would be nice to think your broker or financial planner will call you.
Nice, yes.   Just probably not realistic.   Why?   Because your broker or financial planner is busy trying to get his clients money (where he/she gets PAID) out of harm’s way first.   He or she maybe even moving your other investments outside your 401k account.  Wouldn’t you want to be one of the first people alerted, instead of an after-thought?

Managing your 401k account is not an easy task.  Investing your 401k is not something to be handled part-time. Asking an investment advisor for help with your 401k is a great way to start getting control of your retirement account.

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