Secrets to 401k Management — DIY or Hire a Pro?


Consistent contributions to well-managed retirement accounts can lead to a financially secure future. Yet, as with all types of investments, a 401k requires management and oversight. From selecting assets to rebalancing your 401k, either you or a professional needs to ensure that the account includes the correct investments in the appropriate proportions for you.

Secrets to 401k Management -- DIY or Hire a Pro?

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Discover the secrets to 401k management and find out whether you should hire a pro or DIY.

Best Strategies for 401k Management

With a new job comes a paycheck and benefits package which typically includes a 401k retirement account. Just click the “sign up” link from your company portal and you’ll be directed to a platform that guides your investment choices for your retirement account.

More often than not, there is a morass of choices and information. You need to figure out your investment options, the fees and how much to contribute. Take heart — help is available to navigate the treacherous 401k management waters.

Read on to learn about the various options for account set up and management for your 401k.

Where to Get Retirement Account Help?

The 401k plan administrator can help with basic account and investment questions. Schwab, Vanguard and Fidelity offer 401k management services and have well-oiled customer service departments. So do many other providers. Betterment for Business, a top robo-advisor, partners with firms to offer their digital investment platform to employees. It also offers personalized advice.

If you want more in-depth planning guidance with your 401k and financial future, you might want to hire a financial planner for a review. Just make sure to check out their credentials with brokercheck at finra.org. Many fee-only financial planners offer this service for an hourly fee.

If you have a 401k and want a check-up to see if you’re on the right track, Blooom will analyze your 401k account for free and make recommendations. For a low fee, Blooom is a one-of-a-kind digital investment manager focused solely on 401k management, 403B, and TSP management.

After a free login and account sync, Blooom provides feedback on your asset allocation mix, fees, diversification. Then Blooom shows how their management could improve your account, by suggesting lower fee funds from among the plan choices and adjusting your asset allocation. If you sign up to use Blooom’s 401k management you’ll pay a small monthly fee of roughly $10 per month, although there are discounts available for multiple accounts and annual payments.

How to DIY Your Retirement Account Management?

Like any other financial decision, whether to get help managing your 401k or doing it yourself depends on several factors. For those, experienced investors or those comfortable with handholding from the plan representative, you can probably manage your 401k on your own.

Here’s what you need to do to stay on top of your retirement account management.

1. Understand the plan fees and expenses. Ferreting out this information can be challenging. Fees and expenses go directly to the plan administrator or the investment fund management company.

Your account statement and plan documents should list fees and expenses. The investment funds list the management fees. This is the amount that goes directly to the mutual or exchange-traded fund company. Realize that higher fee plans and funds will leave less of your money to invest in the financial markets.

Your human resources representative can explain this information as well.

2. After getting a handle on fees, several times per year, review returns. To find out how your returns compare to the market, compare them with relevant unmanaged benchmark indexes. For example, a large cap stock fund return could be compared with the performance of the unmanaged S&P 500 index like the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSEARCA:SPY).

When you signed up, you selected an asset allocation that was suitable for your age and risk tolerance. Every year or so, make sure that your account still matches your preferred asset allocation or mix of stock and bond funds. For example, if you want a 70% stock and 30% bond allocation, and by year end, stocks make up 80% of your investments and bonds 20%, you’ll need to rebalance.

Rebalancing involves buying and selling funds until the asset allocation percentages are in line with your preferences. Or, you can direct new contributions to the underperforming asset class.

401k Management Wrap up

If you’re comfortable managing the investments, rebalancing and reviewing fees, then you can get by on your own or with guidance from the plan administrator. If you prefer to have your 401k managed by a professional, consider hiring Blooom or your own financial advisor to ensure that you’re making the best retirement account decisions, for you.

Barbara A. Friedberg, MBA, MS is a veteran portfolio manager, expert investor, and former university finance instructor. She is editor/author of Personal Finance; An Encyclopedia of Modern Money Management and two additional money books. She is CEO of Robo-Advisor Pros.com, a robo-advisor review and information website. Additionally, Friedberg is publisher of the well-regarded investment website Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance.com. Follow her on twitter @barbfriedberg and @roboadvisorpros. As of this writing, she does not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.



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