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Your 401K balance could be lower than what you see on paper

(FINANCE) Your 401k balance is looking good, but there are factors you might not be taking into account (including the fact that you need to stick with your current job a little longer).

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Most of us want to retire at some point, and as you do your yearly finances (taxes, retirement, etc.) you may be looking at your 401(k) account and have some thoughts in mind.

Many Americans don’t have any retirement savings, so if you do – you may be feeling good.

But it is important to note that while your balance may look good, you may need to reexamine – because you may not have the full amount that you see.

There are a couple of things to consider if you determining if your balance is appropriate and on-track. (Most financial experts say you need to have at least 10 times your salary saved by age 67 – FYI).

There is of course, the fact you will have to pay taxes on 401k withdrawals eventually, and there are of course fees associated with your 401k – service fees, investment fees, and plan administration fees. You will want to take a look at that – at some point.

The most pressing question right now – Your employer sponsored 401k most likely has some kind of match. Ideally, you’d take advantage of that max – as not contributing the amount to get the maximum match is basically giving away free money however, that money may not be yours yet.

You may not be eligible to take it if you leave or change employers if you have not met the vesting period (usually 3-7 years) for your current employer. With the median length of tenure for salaried employees being 4.3 years – it is very possible you may lose some of that balance if you move or change careers.

And remember, the balance you see in your 401k account doesn’t include the taxes you’ll have to pay when you ultimately use that balance.

So what can you do?

Check your plan details. You may need to contact the plan administrator or someone at your HR department. If you are considering changing your careers, be mindful that you may forfeit some of that balance.

You may need to talk to a financial advisor to ensure you can reach your goals.

Also, while you are examining your plan, ask yourself If you need to consider adjusting your investment strategy to accommodate your retirement goals. Also, while you are considering your 401k – consider other IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, or other investments and ensure you are on the right track.

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Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

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