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Confessions of a 401(k) slacker

August 17, 2013|By Sandra Hernandez
  • The floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
The floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew / Associated…)

I openly admit that I am one of those people who is confused by how to manage my 401(k). Friends and family have tried to help. Financial self-help guides have become a perennial gift each Christmas. Last year, for example, I received a copy of “401(k) for Dummies” as a stocking stuffer.

Turns I’m not alone. As The Times’ reported Friday, a new survey by Charles Schwab finds that of the 1,000-plus people interviewed, “nearly half (46%) don’t feel they know what their best investment options are and one-third (34%) feel a lot of stress over correctly allocating their 401(k) dollars.”

I think one reason people feel tense is that many delay setting up retirement accounts until their 30s or 40s. As a result, you may find yourself with a shorter window of time in which to accrue enough money to retire on. No doubt, that can add to the pressure to invest wisely.

Another reason is that I’ve had friends who began investing early and diligently but then saw those retirement funds tank when the economy stumbled. While many have recovered from the losses and their 401(k)s are doing fine over the long haul, it’s something to think about. For some of us, there is far less time in which to recover and earn back what's been lost.

So I’ve decided to break open some of those thoughtful gifts given to me over the years and start reading up on how to invest. I’m sure some readers may think it’s ridiculous that I’m not more savvy about managing my 401(k)s. Fair enough. For years, I got away with just worrying about balancing my checkbook and paying my bills in a timely manner. Now, it may be time to figure out what those quarterly statements really mean.


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