Archives For 401(k)

I found this tidbit from John Cassidy’s latest column in Fortune to be interesting:

“A couple of months ago I mentioned the cyclically adjusted price/earnings (CAPE) ratio, which was flashing amber. Another warning sign is provided by the so-called Q ratio, which compares the market value of corporate assets with their replacement cost, and which was developed by the late James Tobin, a Yale economist. As of March 6, when the S&P 500 closed at 1,877, the Q ratio was indicating that the market was overvalued by 76%, says Andrew Smithers, a London-based analyst who helped popularize the measure. The only times the market has been more overvalued with the late 1920s in the late 1990s.”

My wife and I are still in the accumulation phase and I’m not one to time to try to time the market. If the market comes crashing down, I simply won’t look at the 401(K) balance for a few months. Ignorance is bliss.

A friend of mine gave me her 401(k) information to look at. Her company changed 401(k) providers and went with Nationwide. I wasn’t fond of their previous 401(k) provider (I forget the name now), so I was happy to see a change.

I flipped through the information packet and landed on the page listing their options. I was pleased to see companies like DFA, Vanguard, American Century, etc. Expense ratios for the funds were fairly low too (the highest was 1.21% for a SmallCap value fund).

Then I turned the page…

IN ADDITION to the mutual fund expenses, Nationwide tacked on an additional annual management fee ranging from 1.02% to 1.27%.

So…the Vanguard Index 500 Signal Class, with a .05% management fee, now had a 1.32% annual fee! FOR AN INDEX FUND!!!!!

Now, I know why companies do this. Small companies are struggling. Health insurance premiums are going up. Gas is expensive. So, a broker or advisor comes along and offers a 401(k) plan that is really cheap to the business owner and the costs to the employees are either glossed over or buried in the information. Sadly, most employees don’t have a clue.

To give you an idea of the impact of a 1.27% additional fee, I ran some numbers. I assumed an employee socking away $10,000 per year in the S&P 500. Using monthly returns, I calculated that at the end of 10 years (2003 – 2012), the 1.27% annual fee would have lead to a loss of $8,800 to fees (you can see my numbers here). That’s a sizable chunk of change.

My advice would be to only invest enough to get any company match and then max out a Roth IRA (assuming you qualify) or a traditional non-deductible IRA. There is no sense in throwing away money due to useless fees.

We have had a good year so far in the stock market.

So, curious minds want to know…

What is your personal rate of return for 2013?

Our personal rate of return through yesterday is 16%.

We are 100% stocks:

401(k) Asset Classes (05-21-2013)

I am not recommending this route to AFM readers. It can make for a very volatile portfolio with pretty big swings. Beware.

From today’s WSJ

Fifty-seven percent of U.S. workers surveyed reported less than $25,000 in total household savings and investments excluding their homes, according to a report to be released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Only 49% reported having so little money saved in 2008.

I found the report and thought this graphic that breaks down savings by age group was troubling:

EBRI 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey Results

Only 42% of those 55 and over have a $100,000 or more in retirement savings. Wow! What kind of retirement, if any, can they (or the other 58%) plan on having?

Even worse is the fact that a lot of people have no idea how much they will need during retirement. Here is a quote from one part of the report:

Forty percent of all workers think they need to accumulate at least $500,000 by the time they retire to live comfortably in retirement. Twenty-one percent feel they need between $250,000 and $499,999, while 29 percent think they need to save less than $250,000 for a comfortable retirement…

Consider this:

A lump sum of $250,000 placed in a 20-year fixed immediate annuity with a 3% to 5% interest rate, will produce an annual income of $16,000 and $19,000. Even combined with social security income, that’s hardly a comfortable retirement.


A friend of mine asked me to help her allocate her 401(k) contributions.

Here are her choices (click on the graphic to see a PDF version):

As you can see, they’re all expensive choices. I’m sure this is because it’s a small company and one of the ways providers make the plan “cheaper” for employers is by giving the employees higher-cost choices. Unfortunately, a lot of employers don’t have the time or the desire to research their options.

These plans are more often sold than bought.

The maximum dollar amount an employee can contribute to their 401(K) is increasing $500 to $17,500 for 2013. Those who are 50 and older can contribute as much as $23,000.

Let’s break down $17,500.


$1,453.33 per month.
$47.95 per day.
$1.9977 per hour (based on 8,760 hours per year).
$.0333 per minute.

Better get to saving.

Oh, and in case you’re interested…

The geometric average monthly rate of return for the S&P 500 Index since 1926 is .779%. If a person invests the maximum of $1,453.33 per month for 25 years and gets that kind of return, they could have $1.75 million.

Something to think about.

This is good but he misses one point. I’m not sure if it’s true of all 401(k) plans but interest on a 401(k) loan usually is paid into the 401(k) account. In other words, the interest is your money. It’s as if you borrowed from the Bank of You. Also, some companies do allow contributions while paying back a loan.

I agree with everything else he says.