I learned about the idea of “mise en place” during a cooking class I took several years ago. In cooking it means to lay out all the ingredients and supplies you need before you start cooking. It makes so much sense – make sure you have eggs BEFORE you cream together butter and sugar or else your cake recipe could end up a disaster.
I think of open enrollment – where you pick your company’s benefits for 2023 this fall, very much like “mise en place” in cooking. Don’t wait until 11:50 the night the elections are due to decide what your elections should be. Lay it all out ahead of time and make the decisions in a well thought out manner, giving yourself time to make any adjustments before the cake goes in the oven. What are a few items to lay out and review ahead of hitting “submit”?
Here are five questions to ask yourself when reviewing the retirement plans your employer offers:
1. Have you reviewed your 401(k) investment options?
It’s been a volatile year and your portfolio may be out of balance. Depending on where you are in your career, it may be time to change your allocation. It is also a good time to review the investments, with rising interest rates some of the bond funds may be more attractive than they have been in 10+ year
2. Are you maximizing your 401(k) match?
Some companies will stop their match once you max out your contribution for the year or hit an income limit. You don’t want to miss out on any employer match. Do the math (or have your advisor do it for you) to confirm you are maximizing the employer matc
3. Are you contributing after-tax dollars that you can roll to a Roth IRA?
If you reach the pre-tax contribution amount, and your 401(k) plan and cash flow allow, consider contributing after-tax dollars to your 401(k). Many plans allow for an in-service withdrawal at year-end which allows you to take those after-tax dollars and contribute to a Roth IRA. For high income earners, the Mega Back Door Roth strategy can mean significant Roth contributions that can be used tax-free in retirement
4. Is there a Deferred Compensation or other non-qualified plan in which to participate?
If your cash flow allows and you are in a high tax bracket, you may want to find out if there is a non-qualified plan to which you can contribute additional dollars. Non-qualified plans have risks that traditional qualified plans do not so it’s important to understand the nuances of the plan before contributing.
5. Is there a discount on an Employee Stock Purchase plan?
If your company offers a discount on employer stock, you may want to consider purchasing some. Again, be wary of how much considering how much of your livelihood is tied up in one company and maintaining diversification is important.
The answers to these five questions take careful thought and planning. Don’t wait until the last minute to decide to bake a cake to discover you have no eggs. Lay everything out ahead of time and you can rest assured that you will have made the best decisions for your situation.
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