retirement

Ignore downturn and keep investing

I've read that one should contribute the annual maximum to their 401(k) or 403(b) if possible. I'm 53 and understand I'm allowed another $5,000 per year. Although I contribute more to mine than what is matched by my employer, I hesitate to put in the annual maximum because I'm not very happy with how my money is doing in my 403(b).

Some years ago, when the market went down, my account went with it and it's taken me until now to just get the balance back up again. With today's market, the same could happen again.

Can you give me a good reason to put my $20,000 there instead of something that is not so tied to the market?
Deb
Wadsworth, Ohio

Deb,
 I am what you might call a boring investor. I put my money in each and every month, and don't change my behavior based on what the market is doing. If it's down, I still contribute to my retirement accounts. If it's up, I continue to put in the same amount, not more.

This is a strategy that works for me and many others who choose to dollar-cost average. It is successful because when you're in it for the long haul, you're able to ride the waves and come out on top in the end. At age 53, I'm guessing you still have about 10 years before retirement. That means you have time on your side, and you'll likely be able to bounce back if the market takes a dip or two.

What you may need to tweak is your asset allocation. Your 403(b) is an account -- and you have the option to move the money within to safer harbors, even to a money fund, the value of which will not fall below $1 a share. You may be suffering simply because you're taking too many risks for your age. Take a look at the percentage of money you have in stocks versus bonds and make sure you're comfortable.

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