10 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your 401(k)
10 steps to get the most out of your 401k plan
10 steps to get the most out of your 401k plan
Americans can't count on social security anymore. Increasingly Americans are relying on their 401(k) plan to provide for their retirement years. Here are 10 practical tips you can use to make the best use of your 401(k) plan.


Save More Than The Default Saving Rate
Save More Than The Default Saving Rate
The most common default savings rate for a 401(k) is 3% of your salary. Though better than nothing, 3% for most people is not enough. When you get a raise, try to save 1% more every year, until you can get up to hopefully 20% of your pay.


Get A Match
Get A Match
The most common employer 401(k) match is 50 cents for ever dollar you contribute up to 6 percent of your pay. If your employer offers a match, make sure you contribute enough to fully take advantage of it. This is literally free money that your employer is giving you.


Use a  Roth 401(k)
Use a Roth 401(k)
If you are young and expect to earn more money as you age, you should consider a Roth 401(k) option. A Roth 401(k) works by saving after-tax dollar and are tax-free in retirement. If you are young then a Roth 401(k) is a good idea, because it's better to be taxed at the lower rate now, than to be taxed at a higher bracket when you could be potentially making much more when you retire.


Be Cautious Of Fees
Be Cautious Of Fees
Some 401(k) plans offer investment advice to help manage your 401(k) plan. If the advice is free and there is no conflict of interest, you should take advantage of it. Be careful about paying a percentage of your portfolio to have it managed for you. High fees will significantly reduce your 401(k) balance. In 2012 new Labor Department rules require investors to receive new information about fees.


Maximize Your Tax Break
Maximize Your Tax Break
If you can, try to make sure you contribute the maximum amount to your 401(k) plan. This is tax free money that you are saving. Workers, younger than 50, can contribute up to $18,000 a year to their 401(k). If you are 50 to 70m you can contribute $24,000.


Stay Until Vested
Stay Until Vested
Employee matching to 401(k) plans often take several years of service at the company. This can often take five or six years. Some employees allow people who leave early to take a portion before they are fully vested while others will forfeit the entire amount if they leave early. Try to stay at your job until you are fully vested at your company.


If You Change Jobs, Roll Over Funds
If You Change Jobs, Roll Over Funds
If you do change jobs, you will have to decide what to do with your 401(k). It can be tempting to withdraw the cash. But, if you do, you'll incur a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to income tax on the amount withdrawn. If you do change jobs, you can leave your an old 401(k) account alone as long as you want. The best option is to roll over your funds into your new employer's 401(k) plan. Just make sure to talk to the new administrators to be certain you follow rollover rules so you can avoid penalties.


Don't Take Money Out Of Your 401(k)  Early
Don't Take Money Out Of Your 401(k) Early
It's tempting to take cash out of your 401(k) to make a short term purchase. It may be nice to have a new TV or car, but do not do this if you don't have to. Early withdrawals from 401(k) incur extra fees and taxes and you'll lose out on the compound interest rate benefits of invested money.


Use 401(k) Savings To Payoff High-Interest Debt.
Use 401(k) Savings To Payoff High-Interest Debt.
If you owe a lot of high interest debt, you may want to borrow from your 401(k) to pay it off. You will still have high penalties and fees for the early withdrawal, so do this only if you have no other options. If you decide to do this, you have 5 years to pay back your 401(k) plan. If you don't, the IRS will see it as an early withdrawal and you will get a high income tax bill. You also can't contribute to your 401(k) until the loan is repaid.


Diversify Assets
Diversify Assets
The worse investment plans are the one's that buy only company stock. Your 401(k) plan needs to be a mixture of stocks and bonds appropriate to your risk tolerance. Investment plans that are heavily invested into only one stock can be extremely risky. Just ask any employee of Enron, United Airlines, or General Motors, major companies whose bankruptcies devastated their employees.