Monday, April 6, 2009

Should you trust your bosses with my 401(k) money?

Happy Monday. While I was on vacation last week, I got this question from a twenty-something journalist who just became eligible for her company's 401(k) plan:
I just got my 401(k) paperwork and learned that the family that owns the paper has an investment company that picks where the money is invested and we have no say-so.
I thought 401(k)s are supposed to be flexible. Also everyone I know at Gannett and McClatchy papers can pick where they want their money to be invested. Does this have to do with them being owned by big media companies? I'm sure none of this changes whether or not I should sign up, but how can everyone else's newspaper give them some choices and we have none.
PS: All my co-workers seemed very uninformed about why this is the case.

I wouldn't trust that. I'm not sure I've ever heard of a 401(k) that didn't allow an employee control over where their asset allocation. In fact, many people complain that they don't understand all the choices available to them. While that can be a problem, it's a good one: the point of options in your 401(k) plan is to allow you to tailor it to your needs based on the length of time you have before retirement and your own risk tolerance for potential losses. Leaving that up to your company to decide means they could invest your money in places that may be good for them but awful for you. Besides, your employer doesn't decide what you do with any of the other money it pays you, so why should they decide where to invest your 401(k) money?

You can open your own IRA and keep control. Remember Enron!

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