How To Analyze 401(k) Fund Offerings

May 20th, 2008  |  Published in Retirement  |  Comments Off on How To Analyze 401(k) Fund Offerings

If you just opened your 401(k) or are investigating where you should be invested, my advice to you is to keep things as simple as possible. If it’s your first 401(k), or your first time looking at it with this company, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out what you should be doing. If it’s not your first 401(k), you might be worried that your investments aren’t adequately diversified versus your other investments or that you simply haven’t picked the best ones for your financial situation. Regardless of your motivation to analyze your 401(k) fund offerings, the task is still the same and can seem monumental… so let’s keep things simple.

The two things you need to figure out are cost and performance. There are a lot of options, more if your company uses a traditional brokerage to manage the 401(k) because it opens up the full range of Wall Street’s products, but sticking with mutual funds can’t be wrong. Forget active versus passive or ETFs or individual stocks, stick with mutual funds, if you want a low maintenance 401(k), and you’ll be saner for it.

So, with cost you’ll want to see whether you’re getting a good bang for your buck. Passive funds generally have low expense ratios and likely low sales expenses (active funds usually have much higher because there is more activity) and trend with the market. If you’re happy with that, as many are, an index fund is always a good option. If you want the potential for greater gains, you can look at an actively managed fund. Past performance isn’t an indicator of future performance, but what else are you going to base your decision on if not the past? 🙂

Lastly, remember to use tools to see if your diversification is in line. Are you in too much stock? Not enough bonds? Too much international and not enough domestic? Or you could just go with a target retirement or life-cycle mutual fund, they can take care of those details for you (if you trust them!).

3 Reasons I Rolled Over My 401(k)

May 12th, 2008  |  Published in 401K  |  2 Comments

I’ve left two jobs in the last five years and each time I rolled over my 401(k) into a Rollover IRA held at Vanguard. In both cases, I rolled over the IRA within a few months of departing my job and I did so for a small handful of reasons.  I know now that I was right as projections in Australia show savings over $30,000 by retirement from rollover into one account.

The number one reason for rolling over my 401(k) into a Vanguard Rollover IRA was simplicity. Why deal with yet another account accessed through yet another website, when I could integrate everything and deal with that account through a great brokerage such as Vanguard? I don’t need more fund balance mailings and fund performance reports, I need my life to be simpler so I can focus on the other things that matter. The end result was that I rolled both of my 401(k)’s into a single Vanguard account (and then I turned on electronic delivery of statements!).

The second reason was for diversification, which is related to simplicity. If I have to access two 401(k)’s in two accounts, it’s much harder for me to control the asset diversification because I couldn’t feasibly see two accounts at once and tweak them concurrently to get the right diversification. One of the 401(k) had some home-brew funds (not created by a major brokerage like Vanguard or Fidelity), so I couldn’t even be certain what the asset allocation within the fund itself was like. It was far easier to pull them all into Vanguard and break them up into Vanguard funds, though any major brokerage like T. Rowe or Fidelity would’ve sufficed as well (I chose Vanguard because I’ve had a long history with them and never been disappointed).

The third reason was cost. At Vanguard, I pay no account maintenance fees whatsoever. If you turn on electronic delivery, the administrative costs go down to $0 and are integrated into the expense ratios of each fund. The funds at Vanguard are much cheaper than the ones at either of my 401(k) plans, though some were pegged to the same benchmarks. Cheaper isn’t necessarily better, much like expensive isn’t necessarily better, but Vanguard has a solid performance record and cost is something I can control.

One account instead of three, an accurate picture of diversification, and controlling the one aspect of mutual fund investing I can control (cost), were the reasons I rolled over my 401(k)’s to a Rollover IRA.