How should I invest my only retirement savings?

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Q. I have never invested alone. As part of my divorce, I get half of my husband’s 401(k). But how do you know what to invest in? It’s my only retirement money and I don’t want to waste it.

– Beginner

A. We are happy that you asked this question and that you took it seriously.

How your retirement money should be invested depends on several factors.

These include your age, how close you are to retirement, your current income, your ability to handle the risk of a market downturn and whether you are able to save more for retirement, Debra Ohstrom said, Chartered Financial Analyst and Financial Educator.

She said there are a few paths you can take to answer these questions.

“You can talk to a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who can help you analyze your situation, your risk tolerance, and put a plan in place for your financial goals,” Ohstrom said. “The fees for a financial plan can vary depending on the planner and how much time they are expected to spend with you.”

Or, she says, you can get a financial adviser who will manage the investments for you for a fee — some also include planning. These fees can range from 1% to 1.5% and additional fees may be added depending on the underlying investments the adviser chooses for you, she said.

“Another possibility is an automated investment account like Wealthfront or Betterment,” she said. “They charge a fee, but it’s usually less than 1% and you can talk to someone on the phone who will ask you about setting up an account with the best investments for you and your situation.”

You can also take educational courses so you can learn the basics of investing and not have to blindly trust anyone, Ohstrom said.

“Even if you choose to have someone do it for you, it can help if you are educated about investing so that your meetings with a planner or advisor are more productive and you can actively participate in your financial future,” she said.

Send your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboos column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. To find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Register for NJMoneyHelp.comit is weekly e-newsletter.

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