You just landed a new job, and there are so many things to do. You have to set up your new workspace (even if it’s at home), become acquainted with your boss and coworkers and get up to speed on your new responsibilities. And there’s the company-sponsored 401(k) you should sign up for.
It could be tempting to put off investment- and retirement-planning decisions until you settle in. But that’s an idea that could cost you more than you might expect, especially if you have a longer time horizon to retirement.
According to The Motley Fool, a 25-year-old employee making about $47,000 who saves 15% of their income and realizes a 7% annual rate of return would have almost $100,000 more at retirement than another worker with all the same parameters — except that they waited until age 26 to begin their contributions.
So, move signing up for your 401(k) to the top of your to-do list. If the options are a little overwhelming, sit down with a financial advisor who can help you determine your personal risk tolerance and recommend investments accordingly.
Another option to consider if you’re unsure about making investment decisions is electing to contribute to a target date fund (TDF), if your plan offers one. These funds create a mix of investments according to an estimated retirement date.
The fund automatically adjusts the mix and risk of investments to become more conservative as the target date approaches. A TDF handles much of the decision making for you. However, it’s still important to monitor the fund’s performance and periodically check in with your financial advisor to ensure you remain on track to meet your retirement goals.
You generally want to contribute as much as you can to your 401(k) plan. But at minimum, try to contribute at least enough to earn the maximum company match.
Companies that offer a what’s called a 401(k) “match” will match your retirement contributions either dollar for dollar, up to a certain amount — or according to a percentage or formula. You always want to aim for contributing at least enough to receive the maximum possible employer match or you’re leaving free money on the table.
What you may intend to be a small delay in contributing to your 401(k) can lead to months or years as life gets busy. If this should happen, you can easily miss upswings in the market and opportunities for growth to compound over time.
Choose to make retirement planning a priority and put yourself first. Your employer-provided financial advisor can be a tremendous resource whether it’s the first time you enroll in a 401(k) plan or your third or fourth time around. And if this isn’t your first experience with a 401(k), be sure to discuss the options for any funds remaining in 401(k) accounts from your previous employers as well.
Don’t delay this important decision — set up an appointment with your financial advisor today.