This holiday season, stuff your 401(k) as well as your turkey

It’s a good idea to take a look at your retirement plan during the holidays. Paul Mele explains in his inaugural blog post.

2017 is drawing to a close and that means holidays, parties, turkey dinners, friends and family. It also means being busy making lists, juggling schedules and maybe even fitting in some holiday travel.

It may seem like we’re asking a lot to add thinking about your retirement to your year-end activities, but we believe there are some easy items to check off your 401(k) to-do list that will get you ready for the New Year.

1. Markets are up, check your risk levels

Stock markets have hit all-time highs this year. Good news, right? We agree, but make sure to review your holdings, especially if you’re invested in stand-alone stock funds. All-time highs may mean you may now be taking on more market risk than you’re comfortable with. If so, consider rebalancing your holdings by moving some of your money from stocks to bonds, or, to keep it even simpler, consider moving to a target date fund, which takes care of the rebalancing for you.

2. Look out for your loved ones

Holiday cheer is in the air, kids are home from school and the office is the last thing on your mind, for good reason. That said, year-end is a great time to review and update your account beneficiaries, especially if you’ve had a major life event like a marriage or a newborn child. It may also be an ideal time to check in with parents to make sure they’re on track with their retirement savings or spending.

3. Whip out the calculator

Not sure if you’re on track for retirement? Consider using an online calculator to give yourself a check-up. Retirement may seem far off, but it’s a good idea to make sure the road ahead is well-paved. Surprises are meant for gift boxes; we want to avoid them, when we can, in terms of retirement preparedness. And if you are close to retirement, you might want to do an extra check to see the potential income your savings could generate.

4. Take what you can get

Make sure to max out any 401(k) contribution that your employer offers to match. Taking advantage of this corporate perk is often a big part of your final retirement savings balance. What’s to lose when there is free money on the table? If you’re falling short, consider boosting your final retirement contributions of the year to meet the match level, if possible.

5. Add 1%, and pat yourself on the back

If you anticipate a salary bump next year, consider putting part of it aside by signing up for a future contribution increase. If you time it to coincide with a raise, you probably won’t even notice the difference in your take-home pay. And, when invested and compounded over time, those extra savings can get you to the finish line faster.

So this season, add yourself and your loved ones to your list and give your retirement a financial boost. Because who needs New Year’s resolutions when you’ve got a great retirement savings plan in place!

Paul Mele is the Head of Participant Engagement for BlackRock’s U.S. & Canada Defined Contribution (USDC) Group and is a new contributor to The Blog.

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