401k Advice – Stop Passing Up Free Money!

by Khaleef Crumbley on October 29, 2010

in Personal Finance,Retirement

Money, 401k Employer Match

There are many things that we do in life that revolve around money. Much of the time we are working hard to earn more. Unfortunately, this desperation surrounding money doesn’t carry over to claiming our 401k employer match. People will do things out of character, work past the point of exhaustion, and even fall for obvious scams, all in pursuit of money.

Turning Down Free Money?

However, it seems like many of us are passing up free money with every paycheck! According to a recent study by Financial Engines, “39 % of [401 (k)] participants [are] not saving enough to receive the full employer match”! One of the most basic things that you can do is to quality for your 401k employer match.

The situation looks even worse for younger workers. The study reports that, “of participants under age 40, 47% failed to save enough to receive the full employer match.”

Most companies that offer 401 (k) plans will also offer a 401k employer match. What this means is that these companies will match the amount that you put into your plan up to a certain percentage of your salary. Let’s look at an example:

Let’s assume that your gross salary is $52,000 and you are paid every two weeks.You employer promises to match any contribution that you make to your 401 (k) dollar-for-dollar (100%), up to 6%!

You have more pressing concerns than saving for retirement, so you decide to start off slow at 1%. That means that with each paycheck you put aside $20 for retirement, and your company matches – giving you a total of $40!

Sounds pretty good, right? However, you just threw away $100 of FREE MONEY!!! How? Well, let’s take a look:

If you contributed 6% instead of just 1%, then your employer would match your $120 with $120 of FREE MONEY! Sounds a lot better than $20, huh? So, failing to contribute enough to receive the employer match (and only saving 1%), costs you $2,600 per year! Even more if you get a bonus, raise, or commissions!

I don’t know about you, but I would hate to have someone offer me $2,600 and I just light it on fire.

So, I guess you can see that I am in favor of everyone contributing enough in their 401 (k) plan to get the full employer match. If not, then you’re turning down FREE MONEY!!!

Actually, I’d go a step further and have every employee automatically signed up to contribute that amount, and have to opt out in order to change it. That would cause a lot more people to be aware of what their negligence costs them!

Want The 401k Employer Match, But Can’t Afford to Reduce Your Take Home Pay?

Keep in mind that a contribution to a traditional 401 (k) plan is made with pre-tax dollars. That means that taxes are not taken out of your pay until AFTER you make your contribution – leading to you paying less taxes!

Taking this example a little further will help us see this more clearly. Remember that I am making a few assumptions about your tax status in order to simplify the example:

Let’s say that your net pay is usually 25% lower than your gross, or $1,500. Contributing 6% of your salary ($120) will reduce your net pay to $1,410. This is a reduction of only $90 instead of the full $120 that you saved.

Actually, you managed to save $240 for your retirement by reducing your take home pay by only $90! That’s a return of 167% before you even started investing!!!

Is A 410k Employer Match In Your Future?

I hope you’ve read enough to convince you to take full advantage of your company’s 401 (k) match. The only thing worse than not getting the full match is using your 401(k) for credit card debt! Of course, in order to plan carefully you need to know the current 401k contribution limits, and even consider the prospect of a 401k rollover!

photo by AMagill

Reader Questions:

  1. Does your employer currently offer a 401 (k) plan?
  2. If so, are you contributing enough to get the full employer match?
  3. If you are contributing less than that, what’s your reason?

© 2010 – 2012, Khaleef Crumbley. All rights reserved.

Related Posts:

Leave a Comment

Please note: Use of comments that are off-topic, personal attacks or contain profanity in the field below and/or any links, may be removed at my discretion. Also, by submitting a comment here you grant this site a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

{ 10 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: