I’ve been reading Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H. Thaler. A point of interest is the discussion of automatic enrollment in 401k plans. Automatic enrollment may get employees started saving for retirement. But 401k default options associated with this type of sign-up (such as an investment choice of a money market fund and a savings rate of 3%) may be unlikely to help employees achieve the outcomes needed for a comfortable retirement.
According to Thaler, “Both of these default choices — the money market investment option and the 3% savings rate — were not intended by the employer to be either suggestions or advice. Instead, these options were picked to minimize the chance that the company would be sued.”
So, what’s the story about these default options?
I had never heard of the Rule of 55 until a couple of months ago when a Certified Financial Planner (Jim Blankenship, CFP) mentioned the possibility in a discussion forum I frequent. I’m not an expert on this rule (or any IRS rule) but here’s what I’ve learned about this penalty-free method of taking a 401(k) withdrawal.
If you invest in your 401(k) and stay invested, your account balance can grow to $1 million or more. According to CNBC, about 72,000 people have reached the status of 401(k) millionaire at the end of 2014.
But before you can accumulate a healthy retirement account balance, you need to decide how to invest your 401(k) dollars. Based on my readings, many struggle in selecting investments. Here are action steps that may bring clarity and offer guidance in making a decision: