Julie Gross' Blog
Have you received your 401K packet? It probably had some selections to make, such as a list of investment options to choose from. A small choice like this makes a big difference down the road. Whether you own a 401K, need to fund your own retirement, are putting a down payment on a home, or have some money left to you by a relative, there are some basic investment principles.
Stocks Are Still Your Best Bet
Every decade or two, the stock market tanks, everyone panics and some people say stocks are just a gamble. And if you get excited and buy in heavily while the Dow is nearing its peak, you will have a problem when the inevitable downturn comes. But consider this: since 1957, when the S&P 500 (an index of the top 500 stocks, a more accurate all-around market measure than the Dow) was established, its issues have returned around 9 percent a year. That’s despite a decade-long slump in the 70’s, the dot.com bust of 2000, and the “Great Recession” that started in 2008. If you’re in the market for another 20, 30 or 40 years, these setbacks are merely a dip in your long-term, upward progression.
Some other pointers:
Dollar cost average by buying small amounts regularly over time. If you’re in a 401K, this is automatically done for you. Don’t “buy high” by jumping on board when the market’s hot.
If you have a 401K, try to make the maximum contribution. If your employer matches, you’re turning down free money if you don’t.
Don’t get excited about what’s hot today. When stocks are low, some people say gold is a no-lose choice. It’s not. It will come down. In the late 90s, day traders were bragging constantly about their latest coup, investing in startups that had never made money and never would. It came to a screaming halt in 2000.
Be careful of picking individual stocks. Few people beat the market average. Even professionals who manage funds don’t do well. Favor index funds. An S&P 500 index fund buys every stock in the S&P 500. It doesn't try to outguess the market.
Financial advisers may come to you suggesting their favored investment. Be leery of anyone who presents a solution before understanding your situation.
Stick to a sound, steady plan and don’t get rattled by the noise around you, and you can build a comfortable nest egg over a lifetime.