Contribute to your company’s retirement plan up to the maximum 401(k) match (if offered). It’s like getting extra money from your employer. Make it your first goal to contribute at least enough money to get all the matching funds your company offers.
How much do I need to contribute to get my full match?
It depends on your company’s plan. For example, if your company offers to pay you 50¢ for every dollar you contribute, up to a maximum benefit of $3,000, your goal would be to contribute $6,000.
Shouldn’t I pay off my credit cards first?
Not until you’ve gotten your company’s match. A 50% match from your company is like earning 50% on the money you contribute—a much higher interest rate than even the most expensive credit card charges. You’ll come out ahead by getting your match first—then getting rid of high-interest debt.
Things are tight. Where will I find the money?
Think about it this way: Money you don’t put into a company retirement plan is subject to federal, state, and local income taxes. So if you’re in a 30% combined (federal and state) tax bracket, each dollar you contribute to a 401(k) will reduce your paycheck by just 70¢.
If you can’t contribute enough to get the whole match, start increasing your contribution by an additional 1% of your salary each year.
On a $60,000 salary, that’s an extra $23 going into your 401(k) every two weeks—but only $20 coming out of your paycheck. Most people can compensate for the decreased income by bringing lunch from home one or two more times each week.