Financial News & TipsALAN MOORE / L’Observateur / November 10, 1999When it comes to saving for your retirement, your 401(k) plan offers a convenient and tax-favored way to put money aside for your future security.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Unfortunately, many people who have 401(k) plans available to them don’t take full advantage of the “golden opportunity.” So ask yourself: Are youusing your 401(k) plan to the fullest? If not, here are some of the ways you can best take advantage of your fo1(k) plan.

Sign Up If you don’t participate in your employer’s 401(k) plan, sign up now. Startwith a small contribution if you need to, but take that first step now.

Maximize Your Contributions Small contributions are a good start. But you could need a lot of money toretire comfortably. The more you put into your plan, the greater thepotential to have more down the line. Review your contribution level eachyear. Perhaps you could commit a significant part of every pay increase orbonus to the plan. Look for ways to maximize your savings.Keep Your Money Working Look at your 401(k) plan as a long-term commitment. Keep your money inthe plan so it has the opportunity to earn more and more dollars for your later years. Even if you change jobs, transfer your plan money to your newemployer’s plan or to a rollover Individual Retirement Account.

Spread Out Your Investments When choosing your plan investments, make sure to spread your money among the investment choices that best meet your investment goals. This”diversification” can help you manage investment risk.

Don’t Be Too Cautious You don’t want to be too conservative in your investment approach. If youuse only the most conservative investments, like money market or income funds, returns may not keep up with increases in the cost of living (inflation). This could leave you short at retirement time. In most cases,you will want to consider some higher-potential growth investments like stock funds as part of your investment plan. Remember, though, don’tattempt to “time” the investment markets with the hope of always “buying low and selling high.” Even investment professionals can’t do thisconsistently.

And More Other tips for getting the most from your 401(k) plan: Learn all you can about your plan’s investment choices so you can match them up with your personal needs and goals. Also, know your plan’s features and how you canbest put them to work for you. Finally, understand that saving regularlyfor your retirement offers long-lasting benefits that can help provide the financial security you want for your later years.

(Alan S. Moore is a financial advisor of Legg Mason Wood Walker, Inc., adiversified securities brokerage and financial services firm that is a member of the New York Stock Exchange, Inc. and SIPC.)

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