Let’s see … we just turned the clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time, next week marks the vernal equinox (spring!), and for InvestorPlace employees it’s time for some annual spring cleaning. In addition to checking smoke detectors, we were urged to review a few important retirement planning decisions and paperwork.
That was the gist from our human resources guru Janet, who put out several memos urging employees to take some time to think about two important aspects of their retirement planning: 401k contributions and allocations, and beneficiary planning. Let’s take them one at a time.
Perhaps you were fortunate enough to get a raise this year. That makes for a great opportunity to increase your contribution to your retirement cause. Every little extra bit helps — even just a 1% to 2% increase today can make a big difference down the road.
Since you’re going to increase your contribution, take a look at your allocations at the same time. Maybe you want to rotate out of some funds or stocks that aren’t performing up to your standards, and the same thing goes for any bond holdings. If your holdings are out of balance due to a run-up — a nice problem to have — or downturn in one specific part of the portfolio, now’s the time to do the math and see what changes might have to be made to put things back into balance.
Now a word about the paperwork. Everyone enrolled in a 401k or IRA plan must designate a beneficiary in the event of death. (Not a great subject to contemplate, but important.) Check your designation status to be sure whomever you’ve claimed as your beneficiary is still the person you want to direct the funds to. Janet provided some outstanding advice and guidance:
- You should list at least one primary beneficiary and one contingent beneficiary. (In case the primary beneficiary would precede you in death you want to name a contingent beneficiary. Also keep in mind your money will not go to the contingent beneficiaries until all primary beneficiaries have been exhausted.)
- Having minor children as a primary or contingent beneficiary is a very tricky situation and should be looked into closely before making that decision. The designation can create questions as to guardianship and custodial issues until the children are no longer considered minors or a court appoints someone to act in the minors best interest. Remember, you can set up a trust to be the beneficiary of your assets for minor children.
Perhaps the best piece of advice: If you are not clear about the rules, regulations, or potential pitfalls, consult either your human resources contact or a legal expert.
So how about we put this on the calendar for the fall: Turn back the clock when Daylight Saving Time ends, change the batteries in your smoke detector … and revisit your retirement contributions, asset allocations, and beneficiary designations. Let’s make it a habit.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com.