If you compare your current 401(k) menu options against what your plan offered ten or fifteen years ago, you are sure to notice something: there are far fewer choices. That may be frustrating if you have a passion for investing. But for most people, a streamlined investment menu is a good thing. That’s because most people aren’t interested in investing; they are interested in retiring.
What’s the difference? Investing is a means to the retirement end. It’s important to choose wisely, but in the past, having too many choices had unintended consequences. Some felt like they had to be experts to decipher the menu, got discouraged and made no choice at all.
Others thought entirely in terms of “beating the market” and took on more risk than may have been appropriate for the age, income and savings balance. Focusing too squarely on investing can divert attention away from what participants can control – saving and planning.
Even if you are a passionate, successful investor, when it comes to your 401(k) you should stop being Warren Buffet every once in a while and refocus on the retirement part of your retirement plan. Here are a few suggestions for how:
1. It’s spending now or spending later. Let’s start with the most basic decision you have to make every time you get a paycheck: spend it now or spend it later. Think of it this way: if you live for 30 years beyond retirement, you have to pay for 70 years of spending from 40 years of paychecks. It helps to think of saving as a conscious choice to “spend it later” on the things you will still enjoy after you’ve stopped working.