Cramer on Retirement: Individual Stocks Are Right for Your 401(k)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Say you've become enamored with an Internet stock that's bound to benefit from the Facebook(FB) frenzy.
Or maybe you want to add to your holdings of Walt Disney(DIS) after the great numbers it just put out.
Now say you want to stash these picks in your 401(k) account, convinced they'll give your nest egg the boost it needs.
Chances are, you're out of luck.
That's because only a fraction of employers let workers pick the investments they want. Instead, most employers give you a limited list of 10 to 20 funds -- many of them with limited performance to match -- usually in just one fund family.
A handful of enlightened employers offer what's called a self-directed brokerage window within their 401(k)s. With this tool, employees can buy mutual funds outside the company's picks, ETFs, stocks, bonds and just about any other investment not offered in their company's menu.
In other words, a brokerage window opens up hundreds, even thousands, of choices to a 401(k) investor.
But only about one in five employers surveyed offered a brokerage window, according to a 2009 study by Aon/Hewitt. Fidelity, a leading 401(k) provider, says that just 9% of the 20,000 employers it serves offer brokerage windows, and of those, 72% offer the ability to purchase individual stocks.
Employers' resistance probably stems from good intentions, but it's still misguided. Afraid the average 401(k) holder will trade too much and squander his or her nest egg, big companies want to protect investors from themselves.