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401(k)s

How to Get Advice for Your 401(k)

A new pension law encourages employers to offer investment guidance.

Keith Alquist, 56, is chief financial officer at American Pride Co-op, an agricultural business in Brighton, Colo. But even a CFO sometimes needs help making the most of his 401(k) investments.

"When I turn 66, I'll have a 15-year-old," he says. "How can I retire and put him through college?" Alquist is lucky because he can request guidance from the Principal Financial Group, which runs his retirement plan.

Thanks to the new pension- and retirement-reform law, all workers can get access to specific, personalized, retirement-investment advice at work -- including which funds to choose. That's because the law lets employers make such counseling available without fear of being held responsible if the recommendations fizzle.

Company-authorized financial guidance is controversial because of the potential for conflicts of interest. You might not want an insurance or mutual fund company touting its own offerings (or trashing the competition's). So financial advisers who represent an investment company may base their recommendations only on a computer model created by an independent, outside financial firm.