Many employers are setting up financial advice sessions for employees to help them navigate through the market downturn that has reduced 401(k) balances for most of us. It's a good idea to take advantage of one of these sessions if offered at work. If it's not an option in your workplace, you can review this checklist to make sure you're not forgetting any basics.
1. Consider investing a specific amount every month from your paycheck or bank account, particularly if you're younger and just starting to save for retirement.
2. Make the maximum contribution, if possible, to your employer's retirement plan. Take advantage of the employer match, if one is offered.
3. Consider investing for the long term with a well diversified portfolio spread between stocks, bonds or other low risk investments. This is especially critical as you reach your 30s and 40s to reap maximum market gain but with controlled risk.
4. Keep investing in your retirement plan even through downturns. When you turn 50, consider if you should make catch-up contributions.
5. Maintain a cash reserve to help with unexpected events including a layoff. Many experts recommend setting aside up to six months of pay.
6. As you approach retirement, consider part-time employment to postpone withdrawals from your retirement savings.
7. Develop a strategy for turning your 401(k) or other savings such as IRAs or CDs to an income stream, whether it's though an annuity or other product.
8. If you're approaching retirement, carefully plan your income withdrawal strategy by assessing your anticipated costs. Consider developing a list of must-haves including food, shelter and other basic needs and a separate list of wants, including vacations and recreational activities. Then develop a budget.
9. Assess where you stand with your 401(k) and consider how you might improve your chances of recovering from the past year's market downturn by increasing your contribution or changing your mix of stocks and bonds to improve return.
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10. If your employer doesn't offer financial advice sessions, consider working with a financial adviser on your own. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors offers tips for selecting one and offers other tips at: http://www.napfa.org/tips_tools/index.asp