"60 Minutes" recently re-aired an installment about 401(k)s and the fact that so many baby boomers are putting off retirement because they've lost so much money due to volatility of the markets.
If you're a babyboomer with a 401(k), I urge you to watch it.
Several people who have lost jobs and large percentages of their retirement funds were interviewed in the "60 Minutes" program as were professionals from the industry.
Among them, correspondent Steve Kroft interviewed David Ray, president of 401(k) Council of America and an industry lobbiest, who said the 401(k) was the best way to save for retirement and that losses were, "not a 401(k) problem. If people take equity risk, there was a logical outcome."
Ray said people have no one to blame but themselves.
Kroft asked Ray if he thought people would get all their losses recovered to which Ray responded, "They can't count on it coming back. Maybe if they work 10 more years but shouldn't have any unrealistic expectations."
Kroft then interviewed Brooks Hamilton, who designs pension plans for large companies. Regarding mutual funds Hamilton said, "The fact is, the typical 401(k) investor is a novice. They don't know a stock from a rock."
When asked about the quality of the mutual funds in 401(k) plans Hamilton responded, "Mediocre. Half the funds are really dogs and shouldn't be listed."
U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., is a critic of 401(k)s. He told Kroft there are more than a dozen undisclosed fees deducted from 401(k) accounts. Most are not listed in the prospectus. Among them are legal fees, trustee fees, transactional fees, stewardship fees, bookkeeping fees, finders fees and more. Miller said 401(k) participants can lose half of their income to fees over a 30-year span.
So, what can you do?
First, get educated on your options so you can make informed decisions. Find out how much you are paying in fees for mutual funds. There is a free website - www.personalfund.com - that will give you the facts. It is run by financial expert Andrew Tobias. On the wesbiste you can enter your fund symbols and get a broad spectrum of information.
Are there alternatives to investments in 401(k)s?
Yes. If you are 59½ or older, you may be able to rollover all or a portion of a 401(k) into a self-directed IRA. Check with your plan administrator then consider a Fixed Indexed Annuity (FIA). The FIA has no rival in its combined ability to ensure safety, offer opportunity for growth that is automatically captured annually, and give income that adjusts for inflation and lasts a lifetime. It surpasses variable annuities, target-dated mutual funds, laddered bonds and dividend-paying stocks. And, most have no fees except an income rider fee of less than 1 percent designed to guarantee lifetime income. A 401(k) cannot guarantee a lifetime income.
With an FIA you never lose principal or previously credited gains to market volatility. When the market is up, you capture a portion of the gains. When the market is down, you are protected from losses. Financial expert David Babbel, a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs and professor emeritus at the Warton School at the University of Pennsylvania, has conducted studies and written white papers on the safety and viability of fixed indexed annuities and immediate annuities for retirement. "Moderate returns that never experience a loss and grow tax-deferred will outperform a volatile market over time," he writes.
What about safe returns?
Bank CDs, savings accounts, money market yields and government bonds (with interest rate risk) have safe returns. Although the FIA was never built to compete with the stock market, it has done admirably in an increasingly volatile environment. Recents studies by Jack Marrion, an industry-recognized expert on annuities, and the Wharton School have that FIAs with yields in the 5 to 8 percent range have even competed with the returns of the S&P 500. So while you may achieve good results compared to the market, you have non of the market risk.
Fixed Indexed Annuities - not to be confused with Variable Annuities - are sold by insurance agents. Find a good advisor who is a Retirement Planning Specialist to review your needs and who can help you achieve your retirement goals. At least become familiar with your options so you can feel secure about your retirement and future.
Contact Susan L. Moore Vault, president of Moore Financial Strategies, at email@example.com or (520) 296-4464. She also hosts "Safe Money Strategies" from 6 to 6:30 a.m. Saturdays on KNST 97.1-FM/790-AM.