With putting off “figuring out” investing until after I graduated from college, I was in for a huge learning curve when I enrolled in my employer’s 401(k) plan.
The ending balance of my first quarter in my employer’s 401(k) plan was $783.02, which included two months of contributions from both sides. Here is how these funds were split up:
- Company stock: $241.60
- PIMCO Total Return Institutional: $120.98
- Artio International Equity Fund A: $106.99
- American Beacon Small Cap Value Plan: $30.31
- Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares: $25.82
- Vanguard Windsor II Fund Investor Shares: $25.54
- Vanguard Retirement Savings Trust: $90.95
- Vanguard Target Retirement 2050: $110.18
- Vanguard Strategic Equity Fund: $30.57
Wow! Not only did I not know what I was doing, but I had managed to put dribbles of money into almost every fund available in my 401(k).
At orientation, I could have filled out a simple form that would have automatically enrolled me in the 401(k) plan and put my contributions into the age-appropriate Target Retirement Fund, but I chose not to because I thought I could figure it out myself and do it all online. It turned out that I lost a month of being able to contribute because I didn’t turn the form in at orientation AND I ended up with this ridiculous asset allocation because I had zero idea about what I was doing.
By the end of the second and third quarters, there was more money in the account, but I still had it split up amongst 9 funds. The important part, looking back, is that I started contributing and kept contributing, even though they were reasonably small amounts – in that first year, I only contributed just over $2,500 to my 401(k).