Reader R.M., November 2008:
DEAR BRUCE: I left my 401(k) with my former employer, as it seemed to be performing well. However, I am 54 years old and, examining it more closely, I saw a couple of $800 losses (quarterly) in a three-year period. I haven't called the company, thinking it might say anything just to keep my money invested. The 401(k) had almost reached $80,000. My wife says to sit tight, the economy is tough, and may get worse before it gets better. But she withdrew her $60,000 for her 401(k) a few years ago, and has no retirement money, plus we got hit hard with the penalties from the IRS. Should I contact my banker and roll the money into a no-penalty CD to gather interest? It's better than a loss. -- R.M., via e-mail
DEAR R.M.: My mailbox is full of letters similar to yours. Your 401(k), self-directed IRA or regular investments have taken a hit. Welcome to the real world. Your wife is correct, however -- the economy is tough. You may have an option at certain times to withdraw this money and if you feel more comfortable taking it out of the market, you may wish to do so. If you put the money into a CD, you will just barely stay even with, or a little ahead of, inflation, but your capital will remain intact. On the other hand, when the market recovers, you'll be the beneficiary and the money locked into a CD will not grow. My inclination would be to stay put. While the market may or may not be close to bottom as these words are written, it is going to recover. At 54, you likely have 10 to 15 years before you will need this money, and most observers think the market will recover long before then.
Reader R.M., today:
Dear Bruce: I am 54 years old, and I left my 401(k) with a former employer. However, in examining it more closely, I saw there were a couple $800 losses (quarterly) in a three-year period. I haven’t called them, thinking they might say anything just to keep my money invested with them. It had almost reached $80,000.Williams appears to have gone to the trouble of slightly editing the question and then writing a new answer updated for current market conditions. Did he really think he could fool the Google machine? Is it really that hard to get new questions from readers?
My wife says to sit tight, that the economy is tough and it’s not just me it’s happening to. It may get worse before it gets better. She withdrew the $60,000 for her 401(k) a few years ago and has no retirement money, plus we got hit hard with the penalties from the IRS.
Should I contact my banker and see about rolling the money into a no-penalty CD or program to gather interest instead of having a loss?
— R.M., via email
Dear R.M.: Your wife may be right in suggesting you should keep the money invested where it is. The fact that you had an $800 loss a couple of times is not a big deal. How about the times when you had a decent return?
Since you haven’t contacted your 401(k) managers, I suggest you sit down and talk with them. Your $80,000 is nothing to sneeze at, and they should make plenty of time for you. Ask what they are planning for you and how much your investment has earned in the last three or four years. After you get some answers, you can decide who is going to handle your money.
As for your wife, she took $60,000 from her 401(k) and has no retirement money. What happened to that money?
We only Googled Williams because his advice was so lame, and we intended to write corrected advice. If he had offered better financial advice, he might have gotten away with the self-plagiarism.