All this week, Morning Shift is speaking with financial experts about common money concerns, including savings, retirement plans, the stock market, life insurance and more.
On Monday, Morning Shift host Jenn White spoke with Christine Benz, director of personal finance at the investment firm Morningstar, about how to better plan for retirement.
On investing aggressively at a young age
Christine Benz: If you have a long time horizon, you want to be in the asset class with the best long-term return prospects. So even if it's going to go up, down and sideways over your holding period, you should be okay with that because this is your retirement money; you shouldn’t tap it prior to retirement ... Past performance isn't necessarily predictive but we know over time stocks do have better returns than bonds (and) certainly better returns than guaranteed investments like cash. So younger investors should be aggressive, should have stock-heavy portfolios and should also have globally diversified portfolios -- not just U.S. stocks.
On the difference between 401Ks and 403Bs
Benz: The key difference (between these company-provided retirement plans) is that 401Ks are typically for investors from the private sector whereas 403Bs are for people outside of the private sector ... The thing that you need to look at -- and the reason why you might consider them versus investing in an IRA -- is that you often times get matching contributions from your employer. You don’t want to turn down that free money. At a minimum, even if you're really, really stretched in terms of your budget, try to meet that match so that you can earn those free dollars.
The other nice feature about retirement savings plans like these through your company: That money comes deducted out of your paycheck on a regular basis. It makes it a relatively painless way to save for retirement.
On how the stock market affects retirement savings
Benz: Don’t peek! I think that's a great piece of advice. Right now we've had a pretty great run in the stock market. People opening their balances today may see some pretty impressive-looking numbers if they've been saving consistently, (but) I think that can have a negative effect in that that can maybe make you feel a little wealthier than you are. So my advice is to stay hands off with your portfolio. I like the saying that “a portfolio is like a bar of soap: the more you handle it the smaller it can get.” So be careful. Try not to do much in terms of looking. Maybe check once a year or every quarter.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click play above to listen to the entire interview.