Your Plan Account Statement Can Reveal Valuable Information

It's smart to make a point of reviewing your retirement plan account statement in detail at least once a year. You'll want to ensure that the information in your statement is accurate and assess whether you should make any changes in your contribution level or investments going forward.

Ensure Personal Details Are Correct

To start your review, check the following for accuracy:

  • Personal information (e.g., name, address, phone, etc.)
  • Hire date (since it can affect vesting)
  • Contribution amounts (yours and your employer's, if applicable)
  • Investment instructions
  • Beneficiary designation

Review Your Investments' Performance

Any large change -- up or down -- in one investment market can impact your portfolio's overall asset allocation.* Consider rebalancing** your portfolio at least once a year so that the percentages you have invested in stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives remain in line with your desired asset allocation.

As a retirement plan investor, your investment goals are typically long term. As such, you may decide to allocate a greater percentage of your portfolio to stock funds*** since a longer investing horizon gives your portfolio more time to recover from any short-term declines in the stock market. However, if there have been changes in your financial situation -- for example, you have experienced a job loss, or you have had to deal with large, unexpected expenses -- you may have less tolerance for investment risk than before. If that's the case, you may choose to lower your exposure to higher risk investments in your portfolio.

One of the best ways to measure your portfolio's performance is to compare your investments to benchmarks. Benchmarking helps put performance in perspective. For example, it can be disturbing when a fund you own has a negative return. However, it doesn't seem so bad if the fund's comparable index dropped by a similar percentage.

Likewise, if the overall market fell 10% while your fund only fell by 5%, you would understand that your fund did well in the circumstances. However, if your fund earned returns of 5% during a period when its benchmark rose by 15%, then you may want to examine whether continuing to hold that fund makes sense.

Portfolio Turnover Rate

The term portfolio turnover rate refers to the percentage of a mutual fund's holdings that changes over a given period of time. Certain types of stock funds may have high turnover rates because they pursue aggressive or growth strategies. Other types -- value funds, for example -- may have lower turnover rates.

It can be a red flag if a fund's portfolio turnover rate is much higher than that of other funds in the same style category and the fund consistently underperforms similar funds and its benchmark. Portfolio turnover rate is just one of the many factors investors should review when assessing funds in their portfolios.

Management Fees

Mutual funds charge management fees to help cover the expenses of operating the fund. Typically, management fees are used to compensate the investment managers who select and monitor the fund's investments. Deciding whether to continue owning a mutual fund based on how much it charges in annual management fees is a subjective judgement. If the management fees are higher than those of other comparable funds and the fund's performance demonstrates no appreciable difference, then it might be worth looking deeper into the issue.

Work With a Professional

Reviewing your retirement plan account statement can help identify strengths as well as deficiencies in your retirement planning and allow you to respond accordingly. Your financial professional can also be a valuable partner in ensuring that you are on the right track to a financially solid retirement.