An old Greek proverb warns that you shouldn't speak of rope in the house of a man who has just been hanged, but if rope is your stock in trade, what can you do? While your clients may not be as happy to discuss their 401(k)s now as they were back in the glory days of the bull market, the tax-shielded account still has a lot to offer most people. Here are a few sites to help you refine your pitch or answer your clients' questions.
Whether your client is an employee with a 401(k) or a small business owner, 401kHelpCenter.com should answer most of your questions about the care and feeding of America's favorite investment vehicle. This independent site is designed to answer questions about 401(k)s from almost every angle — from employee participants to retirement professionals. One potentially useful article is a benchmarking study that sets out national plan norms and characteristics, with such details as vesting times and number of investment choices. In addition to news, resources and advice, the site features what may be the most extensive set of 401(k) and pension-planning links this side of Google.
Fidelity Investments' 401k.com
This slick site from Fidelity offers a concise overview of the virtues of 401(k)s, along with a soothing video on investing in turbulent markets with retired guru Peter Lynch. Beyond the standard questions and answers, a few Java-powered calculators are also available. One helps would-be investors calculate their take-home pay after their contributions are deducted, and another plots the projected growth of their investments over time.
Despite the millions invested by his professional competition, Tim Younkin's 401(k) site remains one of the best around. Younkin, a Virginia Beach, Va., pharmacist, may not be a financial professional but he knows what information and tools people need to make good 401(k) decisions. In addition to Younkin's articles on a variety of retirement-related topics, he maintains an up-to-date weblog of the latest research, news and commentary on all things 401(k). Also, see several good fee-analysis spreadsheets for 401(k)s and mutual funds, which are available for download.
Asset International's Plan Sponsor
For a greater understanding of the issues that concern the pension plan industry, look at PlanSponsor.com, the companion site for Plan Sponsor magazine. It covers plan issues from the point of view of the employer, and offers an interesting overview of the state of the pension-planners' art. Past features included a piece on the possible legal risks some plan sponsors face in the post-Enron era if they limit their enrollees' investment choices, and some interesting market research on the kinds of investment choices people tend to make in their 401(k)s. A magazine survey last year, for example, found that despite the deep slide in the market, people who were enrolled in plans that included their own company's stock still bet about a quarter of their contributions on the home team — about the same as the year before.