For most Americans, the ubiquitous 401(k) is their primary retirement savings account. It is pedaled, pushed and promoted heavily by employers, and it has become widely accepted as the standard way for employees to save for retirement. But when you peel back the hype and the slick marketing, what you discover is that the 40(k) is an investment product that is actually a rotten deal, no matter how you slice it.
Here are the five things you don’t know about your 401(k) that are eroding your retirement nest egg:
- You are gambling with your retirement savings: Wall Street is inherently volatile and offers no guarantee of returns. While 401(k)s are marketed as stable, they’re anything but stable – and you cannot afford to be essentially gambling with all of your retirement savings.
- You are getting a tax deferment, not a tax break: When you put money into your 401(k), you aren’t taxed at the time, and thus you tend to think you’re getting a great deal. But the reality is that as soon as you go to withdraw, Uncle Sam will hit you up for the government’s fair share. If you happen to be in a lower tax bracket when you withdraw, you’ll pay less in taxes. But if you need to withdraw a sudden lump sum upfront, you’ll be hit hard.
- You are beholden to an accumulation mindset: Your 401(k) makes investing so easy; you put money in and watch your sum-total dollar figure go up and down. The focus of this approach is accumulation, where your overly simplified and not very useful goal is to inflate your balance, rather than truly grow your wealth.
- Your assets aren’t liquid: Wall Street does not want you to withdraw your money, and so you’re hit with transaction charges, fees and taxes every time you want to withdraw. This is, of course, an insane way to invest: You shouldn’t be avoiding withdrawing the very money you need to live on!
- You can’t leverage your assets to build wealth: Wall Street forces 401(k) owners into a linear investing strategy, in which they put money in and hope to get money out. This is not an effective way to build wealth; you want your money to be working for you, to be leveraging your assets and moving your money through investments.
If Wall Street had its way, we’d all put all of our money into a 401(k) and never question our investment decision. They want to keep the things you don’t know about your 401(k) a secret, but the truth is that 401(k)s force us to gamble with our money, to be hit with deferred tax payments, and to focus too much on cash accumulation. Furthermore, 401(k)s don’t provide liquidity and don’t allow us to leverage our assets as we work to build wealth.
For more information about ways to grow your retirement nest egg, visit Paradigm Life’s section on Optimizing Retirement Income.