IMHO: Goals Oriented

As the New Year begins, we are often of a mind to think about making a fresh start.

Working with your plan sponsor clients, you may well have established new goals for your retirement plans this year—a new threshold for participation, perhaps—or maybe you’ve just rolled out a new fund menu for your participants.      

But whether those programs have undergone change or not, it seems like a good time of year to help participants reexamine their savings goals—and perhaps even some of their “bad” retirement savings habits.  Here’s a short list of “resolutions” that you can share with your plan sponsor clients—and discuss with their participants.      

___ Resolve to participate in your workplace retirement savings plan.      

If you are not already saving for your retirement in your workplace program, you are missing out on one of the most important—and easiest—ways of making sure that you are on track for a financially secure retirement.  Unless, of course, you have a rich (old) uncle.      

___ Resolve not to miss out on the company match.      

Odds are your employer matches your contributions to your retirement savings account up to a certain level, say 5% of 6% of your pay.  Whatever that level is, if you do not contribute up to that point, you are letting “free” money slip through your fingers.        

___ Resolve to increase your savings rate in your workplace retirement savings plan by at least 1%.       

If you are already saving, are you saving enough?  Have you ever made an attempt—with some kind of planning tool or the assistance of a financial adviser—to figure out how much you will need?  Even if you have, it is remarkably easy to increase your current rate of savings by as little 1%–and you might be surprised just how much difference that will make!      

___ Resolve to consider rebalancing investments at least once this year.      

Your retirement savings account is being rebalanced all the time—by the investment markets.  You can start out the year with half of your account balance in stocks and the rest in bonds, and a month later find that 70% is now in stocks and just 30% in bonds, or the reverse.  How much and how fast depends on how your balance is allocated, and what is happening in the market.  The bottom line: Once you have taken the time to put together a thoughtful allocation, you need to keep an eye on things.  Once a month is good, once a quarter is probably enough, and once a year—well, that’s a minimum.  Try picking a day that you won’t forget—your birthday, an anniversary….  Or any three-day weekend.      

___ Resolve to use target-date investments properly.      

Target-date funds are a pre-mixed investment solution—and most are designed in such a way that they assume that you are investing all of your retirement savings in that one investment.  If you mix and match that with other funds on your retirement savings menu—or split your savings between two (or more) target-date funds—you will probably wind up with a mess.  Just pick one.  It’s the one basket you SHOULD put all your eggs into.