During my thirty year career of guiding individuals to realizing their retirement goals, I have reduced the most critical of mistakes people commit when accumulating retirement assets in their employer’s plan. These mistakes can be overcome and people have a higher probability of reaching their intended goals.
Mistake #1: Making Decisions through Fear
Investing should be performed with a clear mind and thoughtful research being the driver for change. Too often people accumulating for retirement commit the mistake of making changes to their retirement plan account after the negative impact has occurred. This is the equivalent of turning on the hydrant and spraying water on your house after the structure has completely burned to the ground.
We believe everyone should self-assess their goals for retirement. These goals should be attainable. For example, everyone uses the same phrase when thinking about investments: “High return on my investments with no risk.” This, of course, is a fantasy. Risk is present in every facet of life including your employer-provided retirement plan.
To correct for this mistake, learn to keep calm during temporary market disruptions. With the volatility of our current markets, you would be buying and selling all the time and miss the opportunities to meet your goals for long-term growth.
Mistake #2 – Timing the Market
One of our clients informed us that a former colleague of his was constantly buying and selling in his Thrift Savings Plan. His friend thought this approach would prevail for better growth in his account. However, just the opposite has been proven true by economists and researchers of behavioral finance. To believe a long-term perspective can be maintained with such a short-term approach to finances is not a valid one.
To overcome this mistake, each investor should realize he doesn’t possess all of the knowledge of the market and may turn his retirement plan assets into a speculative investment. This does not have to be the case. We firmly believe proper allocation and diversification of your portfolio will keep risk at acceptable levels while obtaining long-term potential for your assets.
Mistake #3 – Borrowing from Your Retirement Savings
As individuals it becomes difficult for us to look at this bucket of money and experience struggle in our lives. Instead of adjusting our lifestyle and budgeting within our means, we use loans from our retirement plans with the understanding that we are “borrowing from ourselves so it isn’t hurting my account”. The fallacy of this statement is that you’re, in fact, providing for a shortfall in your retirement account during possible peak earnings or growth seasons.
Your plan will require interest to be paid on your “loan”. The rate of interest is usually lower than your market returns and the smaller payments returned to your account may grow but your overall compounding effect will be diminished.
The overall solution to these critical mistakes is to ask for advice from someone that can hold you accountable to a plan that you design for your future. We serve as an advisor as well as life coach for our clients. To be that calming voice of assurance when you are making progress or the soft correction needed when you attempt to deviate from your plan allows us to help you achieve success on your terms.
If you are concerned about your current ability to reach your retirement goals in your TSP, IRA, 401(k) or other employer plan, contact a CPA/PFS or Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner for a complimentary consultation. You may find the answers you need.