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7 strategies to help strengthen and bolster 401(k) performance

By Strategic Planning Group | Posted - Oct 10th, 2018 @ 8:00am

Worrying about saving enough for retirement? You aren’t alone. Forty-two percent of Americans have saved $10,000 or less for retirement, and 14 percent haven’t even started saving yet, according to two surveys.

Don’t spend your golden years without any gold in the bank. Practice these seven strategies to help get the most out of your 401(k) performance.

Maximize your contributions

The IRS limits the amount of total contributions you can put in a 401(k) plan, but maximizing your 401(k) contributions can maximize your savings. Many employers will match at least part of the amount you contribute to your plan. This increases your account's value..

Investopedia recommends contributing enough to take advantage of your employer’s match contribution. Since the IRS makes annual cost-of-living adjustments to 401(k) limits, it is important to stay informed on what the current contribution limits are. It’s up to you to adjust your contribution amount according to your retirement needs.

Studies have shown that the people who are in the best financial position at retirement are the ones who participated in employer-sponsored retirement plans and opted for automatic contributions.

Leverage the power of automatic contributions

While having money automatically taken from your paycheck each month does reduce the amount of your total take-home pay, the future reward may be worth it. Automatic contributions prevent you from being tempted to spend money you need to save.

“Studies have shown that the people who are in the best financial position at retirement are the ones who participated in employer-sponsored retirement plans and opted for automatic contributions,” according to

Choose better investment options

How you invest your 401(k) is key for optimizing your returns. Research your plan's available investment options and choose a diversified mix.

Some 401(k) plans will allow you to set up a brokerage window, which could allow you to invest in a wide array of stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and other investment selections that are normally not available, writes Ken Kam at

Feel a little intimidated by the idea of choosing your investment options? Recruit an investment professional to help you with the process.


Try to limit fees

An easy savings tip for 401(k) holders is to make sure you aren’t paying exorbitant fees.

“Half of Americans have no idea how much they pay in fees for their 401(k). A 2015 study found that in 16 percent of 401(k) plans, fees were so excessive they outweighed the tax benefits,” writes Alex Morrell for

Your year-end statements will detail what fees you're paying on your 401(k) plan. To determine if your plan is being charged unreasonable fees, first consider the size of your company.

“If you're in a small company, the funds you're invested in still shouldn't have costs exceeding 1 percent; in a large company you should be able to invest in funds with fees below 0.5 percent,” Morrell writes.

If you find that your fees appear higher than they should be, consult your plan administrator listed in your benefits booklet. Employers are required by law to manage their 401(k) plans in a manner that will most benefit the participants and should be monitoring fees.

Avoid withdrawals and loans

Taking withdrawals from your 401(k) plan works against your savings goals. You want to be building your nest egg, not tearing from the fabric of it. By borrowing from your plan, you can’t take advantage of the compound growth your investments would have made for you if they had remained in the market.

Interest rates on loans from 401(k) plans may not be getting you your best deal. “Although IRS guidelines provide examples in which the plan trustees set an interest rate reflecting market-rate loans for the borrower’s credit profile, experts say in practice many plans don’t look at the individual’s creditworthiness and set a default interest rate at 1 percent or 2 percent over the prime rate,” writes Elizabeth O'Brien at

Choose a Roth option

When it comes to maximizing your savings, a Roth IRA is a great companion tool for your 401(k). Unlike most retirement tools, in most cases a Roth IRA savings account allows your money to grow without being taxed. (You can’t deduct your contributions on your income taxes.) Since Roths are funded with money you have already paid taxes on, typically when you withdraw at retirement, you pay no taxes.

While Roth contributions are taxed, you aren’t taxed on the withdrawals after you turn 59 1/2, which allows you some flexibility in both preretirement and retirement, according to research from “While you get immediate gratification from investing in conventional 401(k) funds, you get a tax break on contributions — Roths make sense down the road.”

Enlist a professional to ensure your retirement savings plan is on track

Any strategic retirement plan should include recruiting a professional to assess, monitor and adjust your portfolio as needed during your journey toward financial freedom. Strategic Planning Group can make certain your 401(k) and IRA are going to get you to your retirement goals.

Advisory services are offered through Strategic Planning Group, a Registered Investment Advisor with the SEC. Securities offered through Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Strategic Planning Group

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