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Optimizing Your 401(k) Contributions

Optimizing Your 401(k) Contributions

What is a 401(k) plan?

A 401(k) plan is a company-sponsored retirement plan that allows eligible employees to contribute a portion of their salary to a variety of investment options. 401(k) contributions are typically “before tax” money, meaning the amount you choose to contribute is deducted from your paycheck before taxes are taken out and you are paying taxes on a smaller portion of your salary. 

Many plans also offer options for employees to make post-tax ROTH 401(k) contributions from their paychecks. Post-tax ROTH contributions do not lower an employee’s taxable income, but they do grow tax-free and aren’t taxed upon withdrawal.

An additional benefit of a 401(k) plan is that when you finally pay the taxes on your 401(k) contributions, you may be at a lower rate. Typically, you begin withdrawing money from your 401(k) when you retire and you may very well be in a lower tax bracket at that time; thus you could end up paying less tax on your savings when you do eventually withdraw funds.

If your company offers a 401(k) plan and you are not participating, you may want to revisit your decision as they are a great opportunity and an easy way to save for the future. If you have just entered the workforce, retirement may be the last thing on your mind. Or if you are an older employee nearing retirement, you might be thinking it is too late. At any stage of life, 401(k)s can offer specific advantages that make them a great option for investing and saving.

Making the Most of Your 401(k) Contributions

Many employers offer matching contributions to 401(k)s. For example, your employer may offer a 4 percent match, where they will contribute the same amount you do, up to 4 percent. While this is their limit, you can personally contribute more. If you are not contributing to your company’s 401(k) plan and they have a match, you are leaving money on the table! Don’t be concerned if you cannot contribute the maximum amount to your retirement plan. Simply participating in an employer-sponsored plan puts you in a great position for a successful retirement, especially if you start early. If you are unsure about the specifics of your company’s plan, take the time to read over it thoroughly, perhaps with your financial advisor, so you can make the most of your money.

Combined Savings Strategy

A large number of people find success in a combined savings strategy using both a 401(k) and an IRA to truly maximize their retirement funds. A study conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (2020) found that, on average, individuals who owned both a 401(k) and an IRA at some point during the six years of the survey had combined balances about 2.5 times higher than those who owned only a 401(k) or an IRA. People who owned both types of accounts consistently over the period had even higher balances. Talk to a financial advisor to explore your options and decide which is best for you based on your own income and circumstances.

A Few Key Points to Remember about 401(k)s

  • It is a retirement savings plan, so once you put money in it is best to leave it in. 
  • There are penalties if you take the money out before retirement age.
  • If you change employers you can roll your vested balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan or into another qualifying retirement account such as an IRA.

No matter what, take advantage of any type of savings plan your current employer offers as the earlier and more aggressive you are, the closer you will come to achieving your financial goals. If you have questions, it is always a great idea to call a financial advisor for guidance. Contact the Blakely Financial team today to get started saving for your future. 

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals. Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM  to see what other financial tips we can provide towards your financial well-being.
Commonwealth Financial Network® or Blakely Financial does not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation.

Market Timing: More Risk than Reward

If you turn on the news, you are bound to see discussion about the uncertainty of the current financial market. When you log into social media, it’s easy to find hundreds of “experts” discussing “buy now” and “sell now” strategies. The idea of properly timing investments for a quick return is not a strategy we believe in and is not something we ever recommend for clients. In this article, we will discuss why we don’t believe in investing based on market timing. 

What is Market Timing? 

A practice typically used by day traders, market timing refers to the process of using predictive methods to determine when to move investment money in or out of a financial market. Certain investors believe if they can predict the movements of the market, they can buy and sell to create a significant return.

According to Investopedia, “many investors, academics, and financial professionals believe it is impossible to time the market.For the majority of investors, engaging in market timing produces lower returns than long-term strategies.

Though some traders claim to have success with this method, there are no guarantees when it comes to the stock market.  As professional financial planners, the Blakely Financial team will always stress the importance of the time your funds stay invested rather than encouraging investments based on an opportune time. 

The Buy and Hold Strategy

The buy-and-hold strategy is essentially the opposite of market timing. Basically, with buy-and-hold, you purchase securities and hold on to them regardless of how the market is performing. Historically, this method yields significantly higher returns than market timing.

It is difficult to predict the ebbs and flows of the stock market. In the current bear market, it’s important to remember that historically, after every bear market, a bull market follows. Overall, the U.S stock market is positive most of the time, and bull markets last more than twice as long as bear markets. Though it can be difficult to navigate a bear market, rational thinking and patience are the best ways to ensure the success of your investments over time. 

Avoid Emotional Strategies

When experiencing a rough patch, successful investors will look toward the future instead of taking drastic steps to correct a loss. If the market is trending downward, you may feel compelled to sell off stocks for fear of more substantial losses. On the other end of the spectrum, some may feel pressure to “buy the dip” with hope that prices will soon rise again rather than continue to fall. These reactions operate under contradictory assumptions, and can be incredibly risky maneuvers. Additionally, the financial and emotional stress of monitoring price changes so closely is rarely, if ever, worth it.

Choosing your investments intentionally based on your overall financial goals can give you peace of mind regardless of the state of the market. When you are experiencing stress or fear in regards to your portfolio, review your investments with your Financial Advisor, they will be able to provide the insight you need.

In closing:

Historically, the buy-and-hold method yields significantly higher returns than market timing. Attempting to time the market is not a strategy Blakely Financial supports, regardless of how attractive certain opportunities or indicators may be. The road to financial freedom looks different for everybody, but it is important to prioritize the time your funds stay invested over the timing of your investments. The team at Blakely Financial can guide you toward well-informed, diversified, and long-term investments to grow your wealth over time. 

Engage with the entire Blakely Financial team at WWW.BLAKELYFINANCIAL.COM  to see what other financial tips we can provide towards your financial well-being.

Blakely Financial, Inc. is an independent financial planning and investment management firm that provides clarity, insight, and guidance to help our clients attain their financial goals.

Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.