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Many Don’t Understand Their 401k [AUDIO]

A majority of Americans with 401k’s are confused about how to manage them and wish there was an easier way to invest.

Flickr User 401K

A new survey from Charles Schwab finds 52 percent of those polled find explanations of their 401k to be more confusing than their company’s health plans. Meanwhile, 57 percent wish there was an easier way to figure out how to choose the right investment options.

However, Ken Kamen, president of Mercadien Asset Management of Hamilton, says for all the complaining people do, it’s their responsibility to be knowledgeable about how their money is being spent.

“There’s probably 57 percent of the population that wishes there was an easier way to boil an egg also,” says Kamen. “The reality of it is you have to put some time and effort into your own financial future and it doesn’t take that much time to learn the basics of investment.”

A lot of the confusion stems from people not knowing how to allocate their money, 34 percent of those responded said they stressed about that; while 46 percent said they don’t feel they know what their best investment options are.

Kamen says that while a lot of the information is readily available, the problem is most people don’t want to put in the effort.

“If you’re going to save money on a monthly basis or a weekly basis out of your paycheck, you darn well should know where it’s going. Unfortunately, most people spend more time researching a vacation than what they’re going to do with their 401k money.”

With pensions quickly becoming a thing of the past, 401k’s are becoming the default method American workers to save for retirement. According to the Schwab survey, just 5 percent expect to rely on the government for Social Security as their retirement plan, and some 89 percent said they are counting on themselves to come up with the funds for retirement.

Kamen says lots of people don’t even realize how much they have saved up in their 401k or really how much is being taken out. His advice is for people to always put in the absolute maximum they can, no matter what age they are.

Fundamentally, he notes the problem is poor financial education, both of people in their 40s, as well as the younger generation.

“It’s an absolute crying shame that schools aren’t forcing more education in financial literacy,” Kamen explained.

He notes the best advice for anyone is to start saving and investing young, so you’re not stuck playing catch up.

“It’s like the saying, ‘the best time to plant an apple tree is twenty years ago.’”

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