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The 403(b) Commandments

403(b)wise is an essential resource for learning more about 403(b) plans and investment options. On their website, they have developed what they call the 403(b) Commandments:

Commandment 1: Thou Shalt Start Early

The sooner one starts investing in a 403(b) the more one should accumulate. By the same token it is never too late to start.

Commandment 2: Thou Shalt Investment with Quality Companies

You can’t control the market, but you can control who you invest with. Two great places to research investment companies are: Morningstar and Motley Fool.

Commandment 3: Thou Shalt Know All Fees and Surrender Charges

Some companies go to great lengths to bury fees and surrender charges. Avoid these companies. The best time to unearth fees and surrender charges is before you invest. Dig. Dig. Dig. Ask a lot of questions. And read thy prospectus, which is the legal document spelling out an investment's terms, objectives and other relative information. These can be boring and hard to read, but they will empower your decision making. You can't control the market, but you can control how much you pay for investments.

Commandment 4: Thou Shalt Diversify Investments

Studies indicate that more than 90 percent of your portfolio's long-term return is the result of asset allocation — the process of distributing your investments across various asset classes in an attempt to moderate the inevitable ups and downs of your portfolio. See: Allocate Investments Wisely for more information.

Commandment 5: Thou Shalt Increase 403(b) Contribution Annually

Got a pay raise? Congratulations. Now divert a percentage into your 403(b) immediately if not sooner. Didn't get a pay raise? Sorry. Still increase your 403(b) — even if it's just by $25.

Commandment 6: Thou Shalt Fight For Better Investment Choices

Most 403(b) plans are pretty poor. You deserve better. Don't be discouraged if your initial attempts are rebuffed by the powers that be. Remember "David and Goliath"? 

Commandment 7: Thou Shalt Take a Long Term View

The 403(b) is a retirement plan. Retirement for most of us is pretty far off. If you have followed the first Six Commandments don't obsess daily about your 403(b).

Commandment 8: Thou Shalt Have Entire Financial House in Order

We love the 403(b) and you should too. But it should be only one part of your financial plan. Do you have credit card debt? Make a plan to pay this off. Do you have enough insurance — life, disability, long-term care, property, casualty, auto? Do you have a Will, trust and Power of Attorney? There is no shame in hiring a professional to help with these critical policies and documents.

Commandment 9: Thou Shalt Continue to Educate Oneself

It would be great if retirement plan rules and investment information never changed. Sadly they do. Often. One needs to stay abreast of the latest developments. We will do our best to help in this department.

Commandment 10: Thou Shalt Share Knowledge With Colleagues

Go forth and share your knowledge with co-workers and friends.

Learn more information regarding 403(b) plans at