5 Habits of 401(k) Millionaires

401(k) Millionaire

Today on the show, Brian and Bo are discussing an article from Fidelity on the 5 habits of 401(k) millionaires. It’s an important topic to talk about, as the responsibility of securing a financially stable retirement is largely in the hands of employees these days. Knowing what habits can help you save is crucial.

Many people don’t think it’s possible to become a millionaire, especially when you’re making less than $150,000. Brian and Bo go through each habit and state how it is possible to achieve millionaire status if you follow these 5 guidelines.

The Parameters of Fidelity’s Study

The average age of the millionaire in Fidelity’s sample pool was 59. They had been working for over 30 years, and they had earned less than $150,000. Fidelity looked at their accounts from 2000-2012.

1. Save Early On

We all know the importance of compound interest. It can’t be stated enough. If you contribute to your 401(k) steadily for 30-40 years, you’ll amass a nice nest egg to retire on.

The counterpoint? Most people aren’t staying at the same company for 30 to 40 years. But while it’s unlikely most people will stay with a company that long, as long as you have a steady, lengthy career and always make it a point to contribute, you can get there.

2. Contribute a Minimum of 10-15%

Fidelity found that the average employer contribution was 5%, and that millionaires deferred 14% of their salary on average ($13,300 annually). The employee contribution + the deferred salary = an annual 19% savings rate.

The counterpoint argued a 19% savings rate is completely unrealistic for most people. That may be true if you struggle to identify your financial needs and separate them from luxuries and wants. Saving 20% — or even more — of your salary is necessary if you want to have enough saved up to retire on.

3. Meet Your Employer Match

This is common advice and for good reason. Any time you’re not contributing up to the amount your employer will match, you’re leaving free money on the table.

Fidelity found that of the millionaires they studied, 96% were in a plan that offered an employer contribution, but not all employees opted in. If you want to reach millionaire status, rethink that: 28% of contributions in the average millionaire’s account came from an employer.

And again, the argument against this point: people can’t control if their employer offers a 401(k) match. While true, it’s something you need to take into consideration when figuring out whether or not you want to work for a certain company. Your retirement benefits are part of the total compensation package.

4. Consider Mutual Funds that Invest in Stocks

The average 401(k) millionaire had 75% of their assets invested in company stock and mutual funds. They were able to get a 4.8% annualized return.

The counterpoint said the 4.8% return required these millionaires to have outperformed the stock market by a factor of 3, given there were two market crashes during the 2000-2012 period. Brian and Bo disagree, and offer a sample portfolio that could achieve the same results.

5. Don’t Cash Out When Changing Jobs

Fidelity admits the average employee tenure of their millionaires was 34 years, so they didn’t encounter the issue of people cashing out retirement plans when they experienced a job change. If you do change jobs, it’s important to figure out alternative solutions for your funds.

It’s also common advice to not borrow from your 401(k) at all, to which the counterpoint was — it’s not that easy. Some people need the money.

(And this is why it’s critical to develop an emergency fund during good financial times, so you can rely on that first when things get tough.)

As you can tell, becoming a 401(k) millionaire is easy in theory, but many people aren’t willing to commit to the work it takes to build such wealth. What will your path look like? Will you commit to what is necessary to reach millionaire status?

5 Investment Mistakes Couples Make

Investment Mistakes Couples Make

Have you talked with your spouse about your investment strategy, or what the purpose is for your investments? Investing can be tricky enough alone, but it’s extremely important to include your other half in investment decisions so that you’re on the same page about how your money is being put to work.

If you haven’t yet discussed investing with your partner, you should read on to be aware of the common investment mistakes couples make so that you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Only One Spouse Has Contact with a Financial Advisor

It doesn’t matter if one of you is more comfortable with the idea of investing. Both of you should be attending meetings and calls with your financial advisor because you’re in this together. You both have an equal stake in how your portfolio performs.

In the event that something happens to the spouse handling investments, the other will be lost when it comes to picking things back up. Avoid this burden by working as a team.

Mistake #2: Not Being Clear on Common Goals

You should be investing with a goal in mind — whether you’re aiming for early retirement, funding your children’s college expenses, or saving up for a down payment on a house in five years.

Are you and your spouse in agreement on your investment goals? If you haven’t talked about investing beyond “it’s the right thing to do”, then you should. Otherwise, you might face an issue down the road where one spouse wants to withdraw money early from a retirement account for an expense that was never discussed.

Mistake #3: Investing Without Being Informed

Just because your investments might be managed by someone else doesn’t mean you should blindly follow their advice. You should absolutely know what you’re investing in and be a part of the decision process.

Never be afraid to ask your advisor questions. They should be able to answer them honestly, and they should want you to understand the reasons behind their investment decisions.

Mistake #4: Not Taking Advantage of Employer Matching Contributions

Do you and your spouse have a 401(k) retirement plan offered through your employer? Are you contributing enough to receive the amount your employer will match?

If you don’t know the answers or aren’t sure, you need to look into this. You could be leaving free money on the table. You should be able to ask your HR department about the details of your retirement plan.

If you’re not sure what matching contributions are, here’s an example of how they work: If your gross annual salary is $75,000 and your employer matches contributions up to 6%, then that means you have to contribute 6% ($4,500) of your salary for them to match that contribution.

If you only contribute $3,000, then you’re missing out on $1,500 from your employer. Likewise, anything above $4,500 won’t be matched, but you’ll still be funding your retirement.

Mistake #5: Being Unaware of How Your Advisor is Paid

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is hiring an advisor without knowing how they get paid. Are they fee only, do they get paid a commission, or a hybrid of both?

This is important because you want to ensure there’s no conflict of interest when your advisor recommends certain products to you. If they make a commission off of sales, then they might not be looking out for your best interests.

You should also check to see if your advisor is a fiduciary. If they are, then there’s no doubt they’ll be acting in your best interests, as financial fiduciaries are required to do so upon taking an oath.

To avoid these common investment mistakes couples make, remember that investing requires teamwork. Neither of you should be working alone when it comes to financial matters.

If you don’t have confidence in your knowledge of investing, you can always learn from the many resources available to you online. Building wealth through investing will ensure a successful financial future, and it’s not a matter to take a backseat on.

Knowing When to Go Pro

Hiring a professional financial planner could possibly be the key that unlocks the door to your financial success.  At the same time, choosing the right advisor to work with is an important decision that can often seem overwhelming.  In today’s show, we discuss the services that planners will and will not provide as well as key things to look for when hiring a pro.

In the March edition of MoneyAdviser, Consumer Reports outlined what typical fee-only planners will and won’t do for their clients:

What they will do:

  • Help you figure your net worth:  Typically, a planner will have the client gather the necessary data and then create a statement to uncover other planning opportunities, such as insurance analysis or estate planning.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Collect current statements for all assets and liabilities and use an online net worth calculator, such as Mint or Yodlee, to determine your net worth each year.)
  • Advise you on 401(k) investments:  Your planner should be looking at all the pieces of your financial puzzle, including your 401(k) to ensure that your saving and investing goals line up across the board.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  See if your 401(k) plan sponsor offers access to investment guidance or check out the online retirement-planning program, Financial Engines, for additional support.)
  • Help you invest a lump sum:  A planner should be able to offer tax-efficient investment advice to their clients, as this is a core activity of financial planning.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Use Morningstar software to research mutual funds and stocks for your portfolio.  Also, check out Bo’s Money-Minute about investing in a lump sum vs. dollar cost averaging.)
  • Determine if you’re properly insured:  Your planner should be able to evaluate your insurance needs, as well as refer you to an agent that can provide the coverage.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Do as much research as possible and shop around for the best rates.)
  • Assess if you’ve got enough to retire:  A planner can determine whether you are on track for retirement or if you need to explore other options, such as working longer or changing your lifestyle.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Assess your potential income sources, including Social Security, and use an online tool to calculate where you stand.  Consumer Reports recommends T. Rowe Price’s Retirement Income Calculator and Analyze Now’s Free Retirement Planner.)
  • Coordinate your retirement income:  Planners can determine the best method for drawing funds from your various retirement accounts, while considering tax consequences.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Consumer Reports advises that unless your retirements consists entirely of Social Security and a pension, you might want to consult a professional on this one.)
  • Help you plan for college funding:  A planner can guide you on the best ways to finance your child’s education.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Visit www.collegeboard.com, www.savingforcollege.com, and www.finaid.com for additional resources.)

What they won’t do:

  • Help you pay down debt:  As a general rule, fee-only financial planners refer such clients to a debt counselor or a bankruptcy attorney.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling if you need help with debt.)

The gray area:

  • Help you control your spending:  While many planners recommend following a budget, it’s not cost effective for you or the planner to spend hours together developing a detailed budget.  Most planners are interested in overall cash flow and will recommend cutting back if needed.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Create a spreadsheet or utilize budgeting software like Quicken, Yodlee, or Mint.)
  • Create an estate plan for you:  Planners can help you decide the structure and tax efficiency of your estate, but an estate-planning attorney will be needed to draw up wills, trusts, and end-of-life documents.  (Do-it-yourself tip:  Contact an attorney to prepare or review your documents.)

If you decide that hiring a financial planning professional would be beneficial for you, the following credentials should stand out to you:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP):  holder has passed a 10-hour exam, has at least three years’ financial planning experience, and has completed an approved course of study.
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC):  requires eight college-level courses in financial planning and 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
  • Certified Public Accountant/Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS):  CPA with specialized training in personal finance.
  • NAPFA – Registered Advisors:  holder meets strict education and professional requirements for membership in the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, for fee-only planners.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA):  holder completes a series of three six hour exams and has four years of qualified work experience.

Hopefully this information will be helpful if you are considering hiring a professional to guide your finances.  Check us out on Facebook, YouTube, and please leave any questions or comments below!

 

Links to other things mentioned in today’s show:

Is This the End of Popping Vitamins?
On the Job, Beauty Is More Than Skin-Deep