After you graduate from college and start your professional career, you will need to consider investing for your retirement. A 401(k) plan is a retirement plan offered by many companies. Such plans are tax-deferred savings vehicles, meaning that any deposits you make into the plan are deducted from your current pretax income, so no current taxes are paid on the money. For example, assume your salary will be $50,000 per year. If you contribute $3,000 to the 401(k) plan, you will pay taxes on only $47,000 in income. There are also no taxes paid on any capital gains or income while you are invested in the plan, but you do pay taxes when you withdraw money at retirement. As is fairly common, the company also has a 5% match. This means that the company will match your contribution up to 5% of your salary, but you must contribute the amount that you want matched, up to the maximum.
The 401(k) plan has several options for investments, most of which are mutual funds. A mutual fund is a portfolio of assets. When you purchase shares in a mutual fund, you are actually purchasing partial ownership of the fund’s assets. The return of the fund is the weighted average of the return of the assets owned by the fund, minus any expenses. The largest expense is typically the management fee, paid to the fund manager. The management fee is compensation for the manager, who makes all of the investment decisions for the fund.
Consider the following questions based on the history of capital markets.
- What advantages do mutual funds offer compared to the company stock?
- Assume that you invest 5 percent of your salary and receive the full 5 percent match from your employer. What EAR do you earn from the match? What conclusions do you draw about matching plans?