You should plan for a professional retirement portfolio assessment after you've saved steadily for several years, and definitely after 10 years. A fee-only financial advisor would be the best choice, unless you are a savvy enough investor to do it yourself and you have the time for it.
If your savings institution or 401k savings provider offers objective 401k advice, by all means explore their offering.
But until you get independent objective advice, you may not be able to judge whether their advice is really as impartial as it should be. If you've taken time to educate yourself, and you understand some of the pitfalls to watch for, then you may not need the fee-only advice.
But, how do you know if you know enough?
If you're unsure, make the investment in a fee-only advisor and get the extra advice on your retirement portfolio.
Then, if you find out that you completely understand everything that is presented, you may be able to settle for the free services from your institution in the future.
If you didn't understand everything discussed and provided by your advisor, take the time to educate yourself as you consider the advice.
The assessment should consider and evaluate things like appropriate diversification, appropriate allocation of risk according to your personal risk tolerance and goals for the future use of the funds, and of course, whether your investments are performing as well as they should according to your goals.
One of the advantages of mutual funds is the built-in diversification they provide. But if you choose multiple mutual funds from the same class, there is a chance that they hold stock from the same companies. If you hold multiple international funds, make sure you understand what regions they represent. You probably wouldn't want all of your international investments from the same region, such as all Asian or all European.
You may also want to balance your investments with some money in bonds, some in equities.
In addition, as part of your portfolio assessment, consider your long term goals and whether you are on track to achieving them. You may need to increase the amount you are saving to get there on time, or you may be ahead of schedule.
If you happen to be ahead of schedule, do you want to keep this pace and realize your goals earlier than planned, or would you prefer to relax your savings rate and have more freedom to spend your money along the way?
Another option, if your retirement savings are ahead of schedule, would be to change the percentages between your goals, meaning reduce your retirement savings and put more towards your college or business savings, for example.
To assess the performance of current portfolio investments yourself, or to research recommendations made by an adviser, consult an investment research site like Morningstar.com.
Morningstar provides mutual fund ratings and tools for making comparisons between investments.
They provide an industry-standard star rating system that is referenced by most research tools found on other financial services sites.
Using these tools you can find the top ranked mutual funds available.
To learn more about investing and terminology, consult a site like Investopedia.com, where you can find tutorials and practice trades on simulated portfolios.
Other financial services companies like Vanguard, Fidelity, and Etrade have research functions for looking into funds and other investments in case you are doing your own portfolio assessment.
Periodically making an assessment of the investments in your portfolio will help make sure you are holding good investments that will make the most of your money for your future prosperity.