Figuring out retirement investing is hard enough without learning that your company is reenrolling you in its retirement plan, but there’s no need for anxiety. Actually, 401(k) reenrollment is a good thing for most employees. Think of it as pressing the reset button on your retirement investments.
There are a few reason a company may elect to reenroll its employees.
A New Plan
As companies grow they often put their buying power to good use by shopping for a better 401(k) plan or provider than they currently have. This may benefit you by providing better investment options. Also, the company may pay less to administer the plan, leaving more money in your pocket.
Unhappy with Current Plan
Sometimes change is good. Your employer might switch companies because prices went up, service went down or for any number of other reasons.
Maybe the company’s current provider changed the investment choices in your plan, and because of that all employees have to choose from the menu of new options.
Companies that offer 401(k) plans have a fiduciary responsibility to put your needs above theirs. Part of that responsibility is educating you on how to invest in a way that will set you up for success in your retirement planning. If you spend years or decades incorrectly invested, that could open up the company to legal liability. By reenrolling you it may lower its liabilities.
Reallocation is more than a legal maneuver. For employees who haven’t adjusted their funds based on age, market performance and other financial metrics specific to them, this could be the perfect time for them to do so.
Force You to Rethink
Finally, reenrolling forces all employees to rethink how they’re invested. Whether they do it themselves or seek the advice of a financial advisor, the act of looking at their account and asking key financial-planning questions may be the best financial gift participants have had in years.
How Does Reenrolling Work?
It works in much the same way as when you joined the company. Your human resources department will give you a packet that contains reenrollment instructions. Often you will have access to someone who can advise you on the best way to create a mix of assets specific to your financial situation.
Often companies will automatically enroll you in a target-date fund, and it’s up to you to choose to opt out and create your own portfolio. If that seems a little intrusive or heavy-handed, consider this: 88.2 percent of 401(k) plans use target-date funds as their default investment. As economic professor Richard Thaler told the Wall Street Journal, “Many [participants] never change their asset allocation or contributions over their working lifetime, meaning that their asset allocation as they get older can be quite different than the one they intended.”
Reenroll the Right Way
About half of employees will reelect their current allocation because of lack of investing knowledge, but that’s not the best way to invest. Unless you’ve recently reallocated your 401(k) holdings, use this time to start from scratch by putting together a retirement plan and creating a 401(k) asset allocation that will help you reach that goal. That will likely require the help of a financial advisor.
As you age, your financial picture grows more complicated. This could mean that the default investment option doesn’t work for you, making it even more imperative to seek the advice of a professional. Don’t fear 401(k) reenrollment. It might be a time-consuming exercise that you don’t want to take on, but in terms of your long-term financial well-being it’s probably time well spent.