During this pandemic, you're probably not thinking about celebrating 401(k) Day, especially since it occurs on the first Friday in September after Labor Day, which happens to be 9/11 this year.
But, let me tell you why you should.
Every year, National 401(k) Day, which originated with the Plan Sponsor Council of America, reminds everyone to do a personal checkup, just like New Year's Eve reminds us to plan for the new year.
Think about these important questions: Are you participating in your company's 401(k) plan? Are you taking full advantage of your company's matching contribution? Are you maximizing your salary deferral? If you just started working at a new job, have you checked out eligibility requirements?
Everyone who works for a company that sponsors a 401(k) plan needs to know the answers to these questions. You owe it to yourself to participate and maximize the benefits your plan offers. If you are just starting out, my best advice is to contribute to your 401(k) as soon as you become eligible.
There is simply no better way to save for retirement. First, it's easy to do: set up a salary deferral through payroll deductions. You won't need to think about it again after your deferrals are in place.
Second, review your tax withholding allowances to consider reducing your withholding. By doing that, you can keep your paycheck as high as possible even though you are saving money. The rationale behind this move is this: Your salary deferral is not subject to income taxes; in fact, if you look at your W-2 after enrolling, you'll see your taxable income decline by the amount of your salary deferral. The deferral is not reported as taxable income on your W-2.
Third, select your investment options from a menu that has been chosen for you by the sponsor of your plan, your employer. Your plan may offer target-date options that simplify investment choices — just choose the plan that matches your age.
Last, but certainly not least, take the advice of Laura Dobbins, one of three 2020 winners of the 401(k) Champion(R) Award, which my company (Jackson, Grant) and I sponsor annually (see tinyurl.com/y25v5h4g).
Laura started saving small amounts of money through her 401(k) at work when she was 23; 18 years later, her 401(k) had grown to more than $300,000. What would her future retirement be like if she hadn't started at 23? "More than likely I'd be working well into my 70s, living in a small apartment on a fixed income with no room to splurge on things I enjoy. ... I want that time of my life to be my best years, not my worst."
Take some time now to do a personal financial checkup. It's an investment in your future retirement.
On another note, if you are interested in learning how to set objectives to meet your personal goals through saving and investing, join me for a virtual presentation, "Investment Basics I: How to Set and Meet Investment Objectives," at 10 a.m. Friday, sponsored by the Greenwich Library. To register, go to tinyurl.com/yyxmjytw or contact Yang Wang, 203-622-7924, email@example.com.