How to Manage Your 401(k) Plan Online - dummies

How to Manage Your 401(k) Plan Online

By Matt Krantz

Just because your 401(k) is tucked away and invested for your retirement doesn’t mean that you can’t manage it online. You have several ways to tune and tweak your 401(k), including

  • The plan administrators’ site: Most 401(k) plans are easily accessible on a website. From there, you can set all the variables that matter most. You can instruct your company to withhold a set amount of money from your pay, decide which mutual funds you want to invest in, and shift money among mutual funds. You’ll need to contact your company’s human resources department to find out how to access the account.

  • 401(k) education sites: Sites such as 5 Ways for a Secure Retirement help you take a more active role in making sure that you’ll have enough dough for your golden years. If you click on the links to the five steps, you can see if you’re on track.

  • Regulators’ sites: These sites let you know your rights and the employer’s obligations. Most retirement plans are overseen by the Department of Labor, which maintains extensive resources.

  • BrightScope: Not all 401(k) plans are equal — and there’s a way to see how yours compares. Your plan might be charging lofty fees or offering lousy investment choices. This site helps you find out how your 401(k) plan stacks up against those at other companies. Choose the Research a 401k Plan option from the drop-down menu on the front page. Enter the name of the company offering the 401(k) plan and click it. The site shows you how your plan stacks up and how much longer you’ll have to work to save as much as a worker at a company with a better 401(k) plan. If the plan is really bad, talk to your company’s plan administrator and consider only contributing enough to get your company match.

Most employers require that you work for them for at least a year and that you be 21 or older before you can sign up for their 401(k) plans. But other than that, 401(k) plans vary among companies. Some 401(k) plans let you borrow money and pay interest to yourself. And in 2006, a few employers began offering Roth 401(k) plans, which combine the benefits of 401(k)s with Roth IRAs, which you can read about in the next section.