Retirement, Investments, & Insurance for Individuals Build your knowledge Not sure how to manage your 401(k)? These tips can help

Not sure how to manage your 401(k)? These tips can help

Just one hour every year can help you stay on top of your 401(k)—and your retirement savings goals.

Woman managing a checklist of annual 401(k) changes
2 min read |

If you’re like many people with a 401(k), you might set up your retirement account once—and call it a day. But just 60 minutes of your time every year may pay off big time for your retirement goals. That hour helps you keep track of everything from address updates to new post-work dreams. This list gets you started.

10 minutes: Check your retirement goals.

When you start saving for retirement, your wants and needs may be very different from those as you near retirement—and at all points in your life between. Part of your yearly 401(k) check-in is a level set: Do you have an age at which you want to stop working, and are you on track to reach those savings needs? (The Principal® Retirement Wellness Planner may help you set and review benchmarks.)

10 minutes: Review your contribution rate.

Estimates vary of how much you may want to put away per paycheck, but here are two helpful questions to consider:

  1. Are you saving enough to receive the contribution match from your employer, if there is one?
  2. Can you boost savings by just 1% each year? Over time, the slight increase adds up.

Let’s say you make $30,000 a year and start retirement savings with 4%. Each year, you increase that rate just a little. Here’s how it adds up.1

Chart showing savings impact of increasing retirement contributions by 1 percent each year

5 minutes: Update contact info and beneficiaries, if needed.

Life changes typically equal a change in recordkeeping for your 401(k). If you’ve moved, gotten married or divorced, or had a child, let your 401(k) provider know about the change in address or the change in beneficiaries (the person or people who will receive your retirement savings when you die).

10 minutes: Review your asset allocation and rebalance your account, if necessary.

Your retirement savings asset allocation is simply the mix of your chosen investments. Depending on your plan, your retirement account may include automatic rebalancing, which readjusts the investment mix to what you originally chose. In other plans, you may have to do it.

10 minutes: Consider catch-up contributions, if applicable.

The closer you get to retirement, the more you may want to accelerate savings, particularly if you had to pull back to balance other financial goals, such as paying for childcare or a mortgage. Once you reach age 50, you may be able to take advantage of catch-up contributions—extra money that you can put into retirement accounts if you haven’t reached income and savings limits. The total catch-up contribution often changes every few years but will increase quite a bit when more SECURE 2.0 regulations go into effect in 2024.

15 minutes: Make a plan for an old 401(k).

If you’re updating a current 401(k), it’s worth a few minutes to check in on old 401(k)s you may have from previous employers. If you’ve left them languishing and want to have a centralized spot for your retirement savings to complement your active 401(k), you may consider opening an IRA (or) rolling those old funds into an existing IRA). Unlike a 401(k), an IRA moves with you, no matter where you’re employed, and you generally can add to it at any time.

Bonus: Resolve to save more this year.

If you have flexibility in your budget, there are all sorts of ways to save a little extra for retirement—putting away a portion of a tax refund or bonus, for example.

Next steps

Get started today on your 401(k) catch-up.  Log in to your Principal account to see how you’re doing. Don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement account? We can help you set up your own retirement savings with an IRA or Roth IRA account.