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Home » 401K, Invest, Retirement Planning

Zero of My Peers Invest Outside of their 401K?! Why Aren’t You?

Last updated by on 47 Comments

When it comes to investing in your 401K, your options are limited to what your plan administrator decides to let you choose from – usually a mix of mutual funds with varying degrees of stock and bond allocations. You choose from those, put your contributions on auto pilot, and you’re done, separate from checking in now and then to hope your balance is trending upwards.

You have the account all set up for you, hopefully you get a 401K match, you click a few buttons to select from your options, and you can wash your hands of it.

But what do you do with all that money outside of your 401K?

0% of My Peers Invested Outside of their 401K?

I have an interesting story that led to me putting together this post.

I decided to teach a ‘personal finance for beginners’ course at work. Attendance was maxed out at 30 people – most of whom were in their twenties and eager to learn more about personal finance (awesome, by the way). An interest in investing bubbled up from the questions from people attending the course, while discussing 401K’s.

I then asked the question, “how many of you in this room invest outside of your 401K?”.

<dead silence>

Zero people raise their hands. ZERO!

Before I asked the question, I thought I might get a minority response, but not this. For color, we’re talking about a group of 30 very highly educated, high income, white-collar professionals (almost all without children or home expenses), and ZERO of them had even taken the first step to investing on their own. Shocking! (continued below)…

invest outside of 401K

How I Got Started Investing

Ever since I graduated, I’ve thought to myself that investing was a necessity. What else would I do with my additional income so that I could make it work for me and so that it could evade the corrosive effect of inflation over time?

About a year after graduation, I decided to make the leap. I first read some books, including Personal Finance for Dummies (highly recommended), read up on investing in Kiplinger and Smart Money magazines (both are great), watched a lot of Jim Cramer (not recommended at all), started up an account with Scottrade, and I was off to the races.

It was mostly a disaster. I was burned on a number of investments, and my overall strategy has changed quite a bit since then. I’ve lived and learned from my mistakes (of which there’s been plenty).

And then EVERYONE got burned by the recession and subsequent market nosedive.

Despite all that, sitting on cash for the rest of your life is not really a viable option. With inflation, you will get beat. Your cash will lose its value, and you’ll be left behind. Everyone seems to know that. But, as evidenced by my discovery, something is preventing people from even getting started in the first place.

I didn’t dive too deeply into the “why not?” in that meeting, but I have been incredibly curious ever since. I generally understand the barriers to getting started, but I wonder if one stands out amongst the others as being the main limiting factor.

Once I find out what the biggest barriers are, I’d like to explore each and how to overcome them.

Investing Discussion:

  • What are (were) the main barriers preventing you from investing outside of your 401K?
  • What fears do you have of investing?
  • What are you doing with the money you have saved?

Take the Poll!

What prevented or is preventing you from investing outside of your 401K? (you may select more than one, but choose one that trumps all others, if you can)

View Results

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


47 Comments »
  • Paul says:

    Don’t have the savings to do it. Almost everything (I have a bit in a Roth) I have outside of my 401k is in a Money Market or CDs as, at this point, I am more concerned about having rapid access to cash in the event of an emergency.

    I know I am carrying too much in my emergency fund from a percentage perspective but, until I am convinced that a real economic recovery is underway, I would rather miss out on some interest than take a major hit if I had to pull something out early.

  • Justin says:

    None of this applies to me exactly, as my workplace (a donor-funded non-profit organization) doesn’t offer a retirement plan. But, having been forced to seek out my own financial path, I can’t imagine that I’d contribute any more than whatever they would match if I did have one. I enjoy making my own decisions (even if they are just index funds for the time being) too much to hand over more than would be necessary.

  • Ryan says:

    I put other. I think you should add the following option: I’m paying down debt currently. This doesn’t really fall into the other categories. Not having savings to do it is close, but do make enough money to contribute to both savings and debt, but I’m really just trying to focus on the debt right now.

  • Different Ryan says:

    Also savings v. sufficiency of income. You can of course fund through smaller monthly payments v. a large single purchase.

    Plus maxing out both retirement options seems a better strategy for the younger, before outside investing.

  • Roman says:

    What about IRAs? If you’re asking about outside of 401k, then everyone should at least be having a RothIRA. If you’re asking about outside of retirement accounts, then like Different Ryan, the best strategy with most of our limited funds would be to hit the tax-advantaged accounts first.

    I follow the usual priorities (no debt besides mortgage):

    1. 401k to match
    2. Max out RothIRA
    3. Max out 401k <—Stuck at this step due to insufficient funds.
    4. Pre-paying mortgage

    • G.E. Miller says:

      IRA’s would count. I think the idea was getting beyond the comfort of a 401K, which is already set up and ready for you.

      • Ray says:

        I’m stuck in the same place as Roman is. And while I agree that Roth’s count, it is somewhat frustrating not being able to get started on other investing at this point.
        However, I’ve held off on investing in stocks outside of 401k and ROTH because everything I’ve read suggests 1st saving up at least 3 months expenses for an emergency fund, then funding the 401k to the match %, then maxing out ROTH, then maxing out 401k and working on getting a minimum 6 month emergency fun.

        That’s all a tall order for your 20′s, or at least it is to me since I’m currently stuck on the “max your 401k” step and I’m 29….

    • Mike says:

      Paying off your mortgage is not a sound investment strategy. With interest rates as low as they are today you can refinance to at the very least 6%, with good credit as low as 4%. A mortgage is a long term debt so you have to think on a scale of more like 30 years. What you should do is pay the minimum on your mortgage and put that extra money in something simple like an index fund. By paying off your mortgage early you are essentially investing in your own debt and locking in a ROE of whatever your interest rate is (4-6)%. Over a 30 year period you can guarantee yourself a better return by investing in the stock market. From 1981 to 2011 (this includes the 2008 crash) the DOW index has averaged around 9%, the S&P 500 around 8%. Don’t be afraid of stocks in the long term, time negates risk. Don’t let fear take you out of the market.

  • Chris says:

    I agree with Ryan: “I put other. I think you should add the following option: I’m paying down debt currently”

  • PigPennies says:

    We contribute enough to 401K for match, and max out two Roth IRA’s. On top of that I have a small investment account. I go back and forth on whether we should contribute more to the 401K and max it out, or have a separate account instead. The big issue that keeps me from contributing more to the 401K is that we don’t have a whole lot of say on what it’s invested in. I also like that we have easier access to the regular account in case of an emergency. But even though we don’t fall in the group that doesn’t invest at all, I would answer “scared of losing money” in your poll for the time when we haven’t invested.

  • Ginger says:

    A lot of people do not have willpower to fund anything other than their 401k. I have been after my mom for two years to open a Roth IRA and even with having more money in her EF than she need, she still has not done it.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    I just added a ‘paying down debt’ option, for those who requested it (seemed to be a common theme).

  • Kathryn C says:

    I’ve polled a significant number of my thirty-something friends on this topic (usually when they’ve had a few cocktails because then they’re more likely to dish it)…and in short, and they’re all terrified. They don’t trust the market, they don’t trust banks, they don’t trust wall street. They trust money in their checking account and that’s it. I’m trying to work them through it (again, while at a party is probably not the best place to have these convos), but they’re all just scared. Also, they have no idea what to do with their money. Paradox of choice, so they do nothing.

  • Kate says:

    Even though I have a decent amount of money set aside to invest right now and I’m trying to come up with an investment plan, which mostly centers on mutual funds and ETFs right now, I cannot figure out which broker to sign up with! There are too many reviews, too many brokers, and no one seems to agree on which is a good broker! I am paralyzed trying to figure out which broker to go with! Can someone help me decide? I will be a dollar cost average investor in mutual funds and ETFs until I get the cojones to invest in individual stocks. And I like lots of research and information and screening tools on my broker’s site. Does that help narrow down the playing field? I like the reviews on this site but they don’t really help me compare or decide which broker to go with. Oh, and I max out my 401k and make too much to invest in a Roth or traditional IRA. So now the cash is just sitting there earning .5% and I know I need to do SOMETHING with it!

    • MDenis39 says:

      Kate –
      I looked at several discount online brokers last year – Scottrade, Fidelity, a few others. I chose Fidelity. I’m happy with the decision, I like their tools to research investments (stocks, mutual funds). A couple things I found when investing in mutual funds on Fidelity – $2,500 is a common minimum amount to get into a fund (you can build up to that amount by saving to a cash account at fidelity); When you buy a fund, you should plan on holding for at least 6 months, otherwise there are “Short-term Trade” fees to pay; There is a yearly fee that you pay to the mutual fund (expense ratio) – you can get into very good mutual funds paying ratios of 1% or less. Hope this helps

      • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

        @MDenis… yes $2500 is quite common, but when I first started out I didnt have even that much to invest…Fidelity essentially lets u build your cash up in a low or no interest earning account until u have enough to invest with them…this is a big downside. Firstrade will let u start investing and earning interest with just about any amount…many other brokerages will as well. Fidelity is a good reputable name, but u paying extra for their advertising and brick & mortgage overhead!

    • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

      @ Kate – Im actually a personal finance blogger myself

      However I suggest Firstrade as a brokerage option. $7 trades on typical stocks, and mutual funds fall in the same category, many sites will charge tons for those! No acct minimum either. Though I do know Optionshouse, and Sharebuilder are great for cheap trades…Sharebuilder is great because you can invest in multiple stocks and pay one $4 transaction fee…that is something that cant be found anywhere else. The rest of the decision depends on sign-up bonuses, and that depends on how much you initially deposit.

  • Joe says:

    I AM paying down debt right now, but even if I wasn’t, the thought of investing is intimidating. If you invest, you can lose, just like gambling. And it always seems like you have to start off with a ton of money to make any headway.

  • MDenis39 says:

    I was less than savvy as an investor until about 3-4 years ago. I didn’t even know that i could go to Fidelity & set up a Roth on my own – I thought it had to be done through a financial planner. So after investing to the match in the company 401k, I set up an account with Fidelity for a Roth. The max you can put away in a Roth is $5K a year per person & I only invested $2,500 each for me & my wife. Like many here, I feel averse to playing in the stock market, especially picking my own investments. But I’m hedging, keeping 1/3 my investments in cash the rest in mutual funds. I’m in it for the long haul anyway, so I don’t mind a few dips here & there.

  • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

    Im so glad I read this article, cause I feel as strongly as you do about this issue! In all reality, I bet some of my friends set aside a larger portion of their income for savings. However, none of them invest outside of their 401k. I bet even with “saving” less money than them, Im probably outpacing them as a whole simply because of the dividends and interest I earn.

    I learned my lesson about bad investments. I played it too risky at first, and other than a tax write off, i didnt gain much the first couple year. Now im fully diversified, mutual funds, blue chips, dividend stocks, etc.

    Interestingly enough I wrote a similar article on my personal finance blog regarding savings and the effects of inflation.

  • Brian says:

    I am begrudgingly one of those 20-somethings that was starting to really gain steam in my career in 2006-2008, for the first time ever seeing the likes of discretionary income (there were times in college when I had to check my checking account balance before going to Taco Bell), started to invest fairly aggressively, and then got brutally beat up by the market in 2008/2009.

    In early 2009, I liquidated what was left of my investment portfolio to take advantage of low interest rates and low home prices and purchase a home with my wife and settle down.

    Now I find myself in an awkward scenario. In my career I’ve always earned quite a bit more than I spend, so since the home purchase I’ve been stockpiling cash, afraid to give the market another shot. I’m still gun shy and trying to look for substantial reasons (heck, any reason!) to regain confidence in the financial markets. In truth I fear the bitter psychological impact of losing boatloads of money in the market TWICE over a 5 to 10 year period when it mattered the most (when I’m young).

    However, I really need to take another hard look at the risk of investing vs. the risk of not investing.

    • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

      Brian,

      I took a HUGE hit between my brokerage account, and my 401k account, I probably lost 60% overall. I was 28 at the time, 5 years into my career, and I felt like I had wasted a lot of valuable time…I felt that I could have used that money on vacations and clothes, and at least I wouldve gotten something out of it! But I left the money in the accounts, I didnt touch it, and I kept investing at the same pace each month, and over 2 years later I am sitting at about 14% gain from my 401k inception date, and above that in my brokerage account if you consider dividends I have reinvested.

      I urge you to use caution, but if you are making sound diversified investments, you have nothing to worry about! In fact, the only worry you have is if the stock market crashes again, and stays crashed! And if that happens, as the old adage says, your “money wont be worth the paper its printed on” anyways.

      Also to the others who are concerned with real life financial planners, you can find some great advice from very credible sources online. This website is one of them! I am in on way affiliated with this site, and yet I find their articles to be sound and accurate every step of the way. I encouraged my parents to stop working Edward Jones, and to start using an online brokerage account. Outside of the fundamentals, these investment advisors dont know much more than the average person.

      I have a website dedictated to personal finance, and my fellow bloggers at Yakezie.com are an amazing network of talented personal finance bloggers that are always willing to help.

      http://www.moneyistheroot.com

      • Brian says:

        I appreciate the advice and the urging. I am actually very well-versed in financial planning; I’m a Certified Financial Planner and I’ve worked for 5 years at a large broker/dealer.

        But, a couple years ago, I burnt out on the market and more so on the people who think they know the market. I have a front row seat every day to traders, analysts, money managers, hedge fund managers, and other hot shots who think they have important titles. I really don’t mean to sound bitter and/or alienated, but I can’t find any evidence to suggest that the financial markets are not just a bunch of manipulated smoke and mirrors propped up by talking heads in expensive suits.

        “High finance” is nauseating. Analysts labor over complex spreadsheets and throw slick terms around that in practice mean nothing. And they know it, yet they still spew out garbage like “my model suggests that XYZ is overbought and highly correlated to the contango currently exhibited in metals futures, which is trending downward.” Sir, your model means nothing and you just wasted your time and everyone else’s. How effective was your model in predicting America’s largest financial institutions lining up at the government’s money printing machines?

        Money managers always “see opportunity” in this market, that market, but under this condition, possibly this market, possibly that market. Come on, let’s be honest here: it’s a crapshoot. I find myself thinking that I’d rather play poker at the dog tracks or bet on sports than invest my hard-earned cash with these clowns.

        That all said, I still firmly believe in the basics of sound financial planning: living within your means and keeping a close eye on your budget (see mint.com or yodlee.com), protecting your assets, minimizing your taxes, effective estate planning, etc. And, I know I have to do SOMETHING with my cash or watch it deteriorate at the hands of inflation, I just have next to zero faith in the American economy right now. Perhaps as we move into new revolutions of education, technology, and engineering we’ll have something to stand on again. That day can’t come soon enough and we should all do our part to get there.

        • Joe G. says:

          @Brian

          While I can certainly understand the jadedness that might come from working at a large brokerage/dealer, I’m curious how you can reconcile a complete aversion to the stock and bond market with the historical returns of various indexes like the S&P 500 or even international indexes. I agree that timing the market and attempting to profit from supposedly “seeing opportunities” from the market is difficult if not impossible (unless you’re illegally supplied with insider information), but what I don’t understand is why you wouldn’t consider investing in large, well diversified mutual funds or ETFs tracking major stock market indexes. In your case, if you truly don’t have faith in the American market, why not go strongly into international indexes?

  • imelda says:

    Fyi I’ve been investing for most of my working life (I’m 25), but I voted in the poll to explain why I took so long to finally open an Roth IRA. It was really a very intimidating thing, and seemed impossibly complicated, at the time.

  • Emily says:

    I just don’t have any long-term savings goals beyond retirement.

    I’m perfectly comfortable with risk (and even loss!) in the right context: my 401k and Roth are primarily in stocks, and if I had a kid’s college fund to contribute to, I’d invest similarly during the first few years. But I keep my short term savings (emergency fund, savings for a newer car) in a high interest online savings account so that I can sleep at night.

    Maybe your friends have high enough incomes to max out their 401ks and then some; I don’t dispute that they should probably consider additional investing. But at my income level, the idea’s just laughable. :)

  • Joe G. says:

    While I am a big fan of using the Roth IRA if your 401k options aren’t great, it almost always make sense to maximize your tax advantaged space as much as possible.

    With certain 401k plans, you can not only put the 16,500 max (for those under 55) plus any accompanying match, you can also invest in an after tax option up to an IRS maximum of $49,000 per year.

    Currently, if your 401k plan allows in-service withdrawals, you can basically take those withdrawals and roll them directly into a Roth IRA. Basically, you’re investing up to $55,000 ($16,500+employer match+rollover Roth IRA+ regular Roth IRA of $5000) per year. This basically negates the need to invest outside of tax advantaged accounts unless you’re making a whole lot of money or are limited in your 401k contributions by safe harbor rules.

    If you’re interested in learning about the rollover Roth IRA, you can learn more in this Boglehead forum thread: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=66208

    In these cases, I’m not sure there’s a huge need to invest outside of tax advantaged accounts unless you need the money in the near term.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    I’d be curious to find out how many 401k investors are able to ‘max out’? Myself, I don’t put in the allowable $16,500 a year in to my Fidelity 457b. I simply cannot afford that. I only put in $5200/year.

  • Jason L says:

    G.E… what are your thoughts toward some “non-traditional” investment vehicles? Well, specifically, I’m thinking of peer-to-peer investing through Lending Club. I’d be curious to see what you think of directing non-401k money toward this type of investment.

    Jason

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Never used one of them, so it’s hard for me to comment. You see a lot of people highlighting their good returns, but those with poor returns aren’t necessarily going to brag about it. Have you used them. What do you think?

    • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

      I think lending club is a good investment, but I also think that its more beneficial to invest in the secondary market, and only if you arent looking for a liquid investment. I have a write up on lending club and my experience on my blog if u are interested. Im not receiving any kick backs from them or sponsoring them, but i do have a some of money invested with them

      • G.E. Miller says:

        I’ll have to check it out. Maybe I’ll give it a run and review the process and my experience on the site. One thing that isn’t clear is the tax situation. Is all interest you earn treated the same way as qualified interest from a checking account, for example?

        • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

          Lending Club will send you a 1099-INT. Your tax liability is the same as your marginal tax rate.

          • Jason L says:

            I’ve got some money in it, but the real question I have is how liquidity works. Returns have been high so far (about 12%, about 6 months in). I hear it takes a dip usually around months 9-12, since some of the loans will start defaulting.

            Thanks for the comments though guys, much appreciated.

  • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

    @ Jason L. – Liquidity is the one downside to Lending Club, but truly its the same for a multi-year CD, you cant touch the cash. In fact, if you needed the cash quickly, you could probably sell it at a discount on the secondary market (Folio). This is the only place I buy the notes from, since I can typically purchase it at a discount, even if its a half percent discount, its still built in savings. I have been investing for about a year, and I have only had 1 loan that was late on making a payment, however, they caught up and paid penalty fees, which I get!

    I lay out a pretty thorough investment strategy to purchase these notes in my blog, so far I have earned about 15% with no defaults…granted its still

  • Marion says:

    Interesting but not surprising poll. Oddly enough, it took the market to tank before I got greedy enough to invest outside of my 401K (Roth only). Now like many of the others, I find myself stuck at the “pay down mortgage” step. I just cannot make myself venture out into the mysterious world of brokerage accounts.

    I suppose the next question for all would be what would it take to make you feel confident enough to (re)start investing outside of your 401Ks?

    • G.E. Miller says:

      I think unfortunately the answer to that question is ‘guaranteed returns’ or a 10-year bull-market. The first won’t give you much of a return while the second won’t happen. When everyone feels all cozy and comfy, that is usually the worst time to jump into the market.

  • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

    The comments on this article have surprised me quite a bit. Im curious, and have a couple questions to the people who say they are guarded against investing outside of their 401k…

    1.) If your employers didnt match your 401k contributions, would you still invest in one?

    2.) Are your 401ks 100% invested in bonds? Because if not, they are in stocks and funds (that invest in stocks). If you answered yes to my first question, the tax benefit is the only upside to the regular old brokerage account…

    As G.E. stated in his previous comment, when everything is safe and comfortable, things are either ripe to go bad, or they are not going to be making big returns.

  • Pam says:

    I’m really looking forward to the follow up posts. I invest in both my company-sponsored 401k and a Roth IRA, but putting money into stocks is so scary for me. I go to Vegas and have no problem gambling $400-$500 over the course of a week, but setting up an investment account with $2500 (the minimum!) and knowing I could lose it all kind of takes the wind out of me. Can’t wait to read the future posts.

    • MoneyIsTheRoot says:

      @Pam – If you use an online brokerage account like Firstrade then you can start with much less, basically any amount you want, I would just say make it worth the $7 cost of the trade. $100 would make taht cost 7% of your investment… so obviously investing a bit more than that at one time would be ideal. I started Firstrade with a $500 deposit a few years ago…I made one investment and let it grow a few months…to be specific, I invested in the mutual fund VALIX..and I currently have a 20% return on it, and it pays dividends, and it’s well diversified.

  • Peter says:

    The 401k may give one access to funds that are institutional and therefore should have low expense ratios. But as you said the investment menu can be limiting. An IRA usually has a much larger menu which will allow folks to get exposure to asset classes not in their 401k.

  • Natalie says:

    I’m not really surprised that a lot of young people aren’t investing outside their 401k. The was I see it, in order to do that you’d have to meet these goals first.

    1. Max out 401k
    2. Fund emergency fund.
    3. Payoff consumer debt
    4. Save for down payment on a house
    5. Save for family vacations and other quality of life goals

    Then! you can worry about extra investing. None of these steps is easy and even for those with all their ducks in a row may not reach all these until our mid thirties or later.

    I’m somewhere on the track to each of these. I’m funding my 401k as much as I need to continue my current standard of living, but maxing it out would be almost 50% of my household income. I have a small emergency fund and I’m hoping to increase it. I only have 1 year to payoff my car and I live in a family owned home.

    However, even if I had all 5 completely fulfilled, I doubt “investing” would be my first option with the extra money. I guess part of me feels investing (other than for retirement) is for people who have so much money they don’t mind risking losing it.

  • Kevin says:

    Hi,

    I heard there is a way to get your money out of a 401K and invest it in projects of your own, like buying a home, renting it, and later selling it at a profit with the gains going to your investment portfolio without negative tax ramifications.

    Anyone know the strategy around doing this so I can get started? The stock and bond markets are just losing money for me and I want to stop the bleeding. I believe I can do much better than what 401Ks can offer.

    Thank you,

    Kevin

  • Levi says:

    Like some that have commented I do invest outside of my 401K. I am 27, married with a 9 month old. We have a mortage and 1 car payment. The problem seems to be that every person we speak with has different opinions on how to invest, and more importantly most investment companies do not offer quality planning products to show youg investors on how their investments will help them accomplish their goal.

    I feel like I am watching the commercial that shows the magical number to be a gazillion. If you are at the point of trying to invest, I think we all understand that life does happen and our needs will probably change, but so will inflation, taxes etc.

    I believe investment professional and firms are giving lip service to approaching the subject of getting people started younger. They all say how important it is, but when it comes down to why you are really there, to build a plan you are left staring at an advisor that has the deer in the headlight look.

    This is a huge barrier in getting young people to invest. I can blindly throw money into ETF’s, mutial funds, stock, IRA both traditional and Roth, without much advisement help, and then when I am 40 walk back in and build a plan on my own. Thanks for the help right!! So my goal is to retire early somewhere betweeen the ages of 52 and 55 meaning I need to save bridge money till I reach the magical age of 59 1/2 and can use my company pention/ retirement plan and my 401K.

    I think that if firms want to target the 20 somethings then maybe they should build some planning tools, and don’t just put in the information of the best case scenario. Lets use all of the tools and wisdom availabele to generate an actual plan.

    • Emily says:

      Levi, I don’t think retiring early is a reason to avoid investing in your 401(k). When you retire at 52, you can just rollover your 401(k) into an IRA and take substantially equal periodic payments, avoiding the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

      Of course, if you’re already maxing your 401k and need/want to save more, go ahead and ignore me. :)

    • Marion says:

      Levi, I believe a lot more companies are starting to do that. My company for instance just this year started offering financial advice and the trend will continue. This may not help, but you could always contact your company’s HR suggesting that they offer or possibly subsidize the cost of speaking with a financial advisor.

      As far as the do-it-yourself retirement planning goes, if you are following along with what most CFAs and CFPs suggest, then at least you have a foundation to build on. Hopefully you do not “blindly throw money” into different investment vehicles without doing some research. If you at least do the minimal amount of research nessecary, then you should have a good foundation to build upon once you get a CFA/CFP. And as far as talking to a planner that has a “deer in the headlight look”, then I’d say you need to talk to someone else. Your conversations should be fliud with them asking you lots of questions and you equally asking more questions.

      just my $0.02 tho -

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