Family Wealth blog

Your 401(k): New Peeking Policy

The words Your 401 K New Peeking Policy appear as a title above an elderly couple trying not to peek at a wrapped present

These days, with smartphones, it’s much too easy to sneak a peek at your 401(k) more often than you should. Of course, most of “these days” will not make you happy that you peeked at all. At the same time, the “set it and forget it” approach to 401(k) accounts is far from a one size fits all strategy. If you want to maximize your retirement accounts and maintain a human-level blood pressure number, it’s better to have a plan for how often you check it. Even better: have a plan for knowing when you should make adjustment to your 401(k) portfolio, and what those changes should be.

Timing is Everything

No, you should never try to time the market. That’s just wrong. By timing your 401(k), this means timing it to align with your retirement goals. If you are decades away from retiring and feel confident your portfolio is right for the long run, then checking your account once or twice a year sounds about right.

The closer you get to retirement, though, the more frequently you should check—within reason. How much will you depend on your 401(k) to fund your retirement years? If it’s a lot, then you’ll be tempted to look more often, especially when you consider that the average length of retirement in the U.S. is now 30 years, from 62 to 92. But whenever you check, if you suspect that changes need to be made, then what?

Patient, Heal Thyself

A 401(k) account, in financial management terms, is sometimes considered a “held away” account. That means that it’s managed separately from other stocks, brokerage accounts, and other investments—usually handled directly by the account owner. But when you think about it, this is sort of like having a doctor who’s allowed to give you a check-up for everything except for your legs. If you twist an ankle but don’t know how badly, you’ll need to self-diagnose and try to heal it yourself. Until recently, this was the exact same scenario for managing your 401(k). You might peek at your report, want to make changes, but not know what the tax implications or outlook for holdings might be.

Help is on the Way

Until recently, your financial advisor’s hands were tied when it came to held-away accounts like your 401(k). They couldn’t see what your 401(k) portfolio looked like unless you had gone to the trouble of providing them with statements. Essentially, there was always an important part of your financial picture that they couldn’t help you with. That’s a problem, of course, because you’re paying them to understand your financial situation and goals better than you do.

Now, with new tech solutions available, there are ways for your financial advisor to review your 401(k) holdings and essentially manage them as if they were part of your overall financial portfolio—which they are. So, if you’re anywhere close to retirement (you can start withdrawing from 401(k) accounts at age 59 1/2), ask your financial advisor if they have the ability to help you manage your 401(k) account. Then it will be their responsibility to peek, and your panic will be replaced with their professional advice.

Disclosure: This communication is for informational purposes only and should not necessarily be regarded as legal, tax, or customized financial advice or comment or as an official statement of the firm, or any agents thereof. The material being provided is thought to be accurate. However, the information is compiled from multiple resources and may become outdated or otherwise rendered incorrect by new research or corrections, without notice J.L. Bainbridge & Co., Inc. is not a broker dealer and does not offer tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax or legal advisor for assistance regarding your individual situation. It should neither be assumed that future results will be as profitable or that a loss could not be incurred. For more information related to our firm, please see our disclosure brochures at and

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