Is Your Money Working For You? How To Make Sound 401(K) Investments

June 18, 2015  |  

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It can be hard at times to do the right thing — only to question if you’re actually doing the right thing. This is how I feel at times when it comes to investing. I don’t come from a family of wealth or parents who emphasized the importance of building a nest egg. My mom and dad were awesome in many areas, but had their own battles when it came to finance.

This is one of the reasons why I try to focus on filling in the blanks when it comes to being money savvy. One big area of concern for me is my 401(k).

Unlike most, I don’t have a company 401(k). It’s an individual retirement account through my own company that I research and maintain. There’s no corporate matching or management that oversees investment choices. As crazy and complicated as it sounds, I actually enjoy the set up as I can pick and choose from practically any platform I want.

Thus far things have been going well. I always try to invest 15 percent of my income and follow an asset allocation model that’s moderately aggressive. I’m 30 years old, so I have plenty of time to take a few risks and let my money grow. There’s also some conservative options in there like bonds and cash to help keep things anchored.

Call me crazy but I’m constantly flipping though investment-related magazines as if I have Warren Buffet’s money. I might be far from becoming a millionaire anytime soon but that doesn’t mean us “common folks” can’t learn more about the game. After all, who doesn’t want their coins working hard for them? Lord knows we work hard for our money.

When it comes to your financial future, do you ever worry if you’re on the right track? Here are some clues your 401(k) is headed in the right direction.

You have goals. Hopefully you aren’t just picking options for your 401(k) account without understanding them and how they can affect your end game. Everyone should have goals or an investor profile that helps you determine what you want to achieve — outside of making a ton of money.

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. It’s really great that you love your company’s stock option. However, that does not mean you invest 75 percent of your 401(k) in it. Sure you’ll realize great gains if it soars but you must also set yourself up for some pretty big hurt if it goes down the toilet. Remember that whole asset allocation thing? This is where it comes in handy. Having one as a model can make your life easier. Speak to HR or the department who handles 401(k) inquiries to see if there are models in place for you to follow. You can always research online for more options.

Invest enough for company matching, but more if able. This one is very important. It doesn’t matter how balanced your portfolio is, if you’re barely putting anything in it, it more than likely will not grow. It’s recommended that people in their 30s invest 10 to 15 percent. If this isn’t possible right now, you should put in the bare minimum to receive company matching.

Allow it to grow. This one might sound like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who dip into their 401(k). Aside from being a bad idea, you also get penalized for early withdrawals. In addition to saving for your retirement, it’s important you also have an emergency fund in the event you need an IOU.

Want to learn more? Here are a few more reads on investing:

401k Financial Moves to Make in Your 30s

How to Start Investing

How to Build a Financial Portfolio

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