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YOU might be tempted to think all retirement plans are pretty much the same.
But there can be significant differences between retirement companies' investment performance, fees and the quality of the products - which all have a major impact on the amount of money you're able to build during your working years.
Features to look for:
Broad investment choice. It's important to look at fund offerings that have different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, guaranteed, money market and real estate.
Diversifying your retirement among at least three asset classes can reduce overall volatility. (Note, however, that diversification is no guarantee against loss).
Solid investment performance track record.
Look for a provider that has a solid and consistent track record.
Carefully read the prospectuses of the various accounts and funds to learn about their investment objectives to see if they fit your investment preferences, tolerance for risk and goals.
And while you identify a provider that has a good overall track record, remember that a fund's past performance is no guarantee of future returns.
Management fees and expenses investment companies charge can significantly affect returns, particularly over the long term.
While it's true that the differences between fees from fund to fund may seem small - say at most one percent to two percent differential between two funds - these small variations can really add up over time.
For example, over a 20-year period, a one percent fee differential can have an almost 30 percent difference in the annual income from a long-term fund investment.
Flexible retirement income options. When you choose a retirement provider, you're not only selecting the company which you'll be investing your money, but also the company through which you'll receive your money when you retire.
It's a good idea to look for a company that offers flexible income options for receiving your funds. Typically, these options include: lifetime annuities; lump sum or systematic cash withdrawals; interest-only options and a minimum distribution option (for satisfying federal withdrawal requirements from most tax-favoured retirement plans).
Annuities, which are insurance contracts in which the insurer agrees to make regular payments to the annuitant for life or for a fixed period, can be a good choice for receiving at least some of your money in retirement.
Hopefully, these points give you a good overview of important issues to consider when selecting a retirement investment.
Also, consider reading articles in financial magazines, newspapers and on the web.