We've been talking about why it's crucial to invest in retirement accounts, how much you should contribute, and the benefits of saving. But how should you invest the money once it's taken out of your check?
In the world of the 401(k), the most common option is a participant-directed plan, which allows the employee to choose from an assortment of investments. If you haven't spent much time dealing with investments, the array of choices can be intimidating and you may find yourself wanting to change your mind about that 401(k). This isn't an option! The answer is the same as most things in life — just simplify your choices. Check out some options when you
In my experience, most plans offer some kind of "life cycle" funds that tailor investments to your age or "target-maturity" funds that make investments geared toward your planned retirement date. You'd only need to check on your account a couple times a year with these funds, because they rebalance automatically and gradually become more conservative as you get closer to retirement. While target funds aren't perfect, they certainly make retirement saving easy.
If you're a more seasoned investor you may be able to set up a more complex asset allocation, or ask a knowledgeable and trusted friend to help you. And if you want to take it a step further, ask a financial adviser to come up with the best asset allocation given your personal savings goals. You can always start out with a target or life cycle fund and switch out later if you become more comfortable with a portfolio that you've created.
Be sure that you review your investments occasionally to ensure they make sense. For example, if you decide that you're going to retire earlier than expected you would need to adjust your 401(k) investments to reflect your new situation. What's your 401(k) investment strategy? Have you ever used the age based funds?