If your employer is not offering online 401(k) advice, you can find similar services directly online. One of the firms,
, has a online retail program for individuals, much of which is free. The site,
www.financialengines.com, will give you its prediction whether your current investments will enable you to meet your retirement goals. And if changes are needed, it will recommend specific funds for a fee.
I gave Financial Engines a go, and here's what I found.
First, I was pleasantly surprised that the site allowed me to input specific funds in my portfolio, rather than asking generic-type questions about whether I owned large-cap or value funds. Theoretically, at least, this information should help Financial Engines compute more precise returns.
It also asked what I had in tax-deferred and nontax-deferred accounts and factored in other expected sources of income at retirement, such as rental income. It then computed what I'll need in retirement and figured out my Social Security income automatically.
One annoying thing was the constant, nagging question of what other funds I would consider adding to my portfolio. It made Financial Engines seem like a fortune teller asking me for clues before it would give me my retirement savings prognosis. In the end, none of that information seemed to matter, anyway, because it recommended adding bond and money-market funds, neither of which I had mentioned as a potential holding.
But perhaps that's what's good about the site. Maybe Financial Engines made those recommendations because it thought I was too heavily weighted in equities (I do have a healthy share). If that's the case, though, it was oddly mum about the heavy tech weighting of my portfolio in this year of massive technology stock pummeling. A live financial adviser undoubtedly would have something to say about that.
Finally, even though Financial Engines says the average time per session is only 23 minutes, it took me 45 minutes -- almost twice as long -- to fill in the data about my relatively uncomplicated 401(k), IRA and variable annuity holdings.
Altogether, I found this initial, free Financial Engines session a good starting point for rethinking my investments; it was enough of a teaser to consider trying one of these services for at least a trial run.
Financial Engines charges $14.95 a quarter directly to consumers -- including specific fund recommendations -- on a single tax-deferred account. For an additional $25 a quarter, or a total of $39.95, you can obtain ongoing advice on all of your holdings.
If your employer doesn't offer 401(k) advice, there are a few other sites you can go to. Try
Clear Future (basic service for $7.95 a quarter) by
Direct Advice ($75 a year) and