Dear Liz: Lately I have been reading a lot about how people aren’t saving enough for retirement. Every article I read talks about the need to put enough into employers’ 401(k) programs to get the maximum possible company match. What do you do when your employer doesn’t match your contribution?
Answer: You contribute anyway, and start looking for a better job.
The advice that people should contribute at least enough to get the maximum match is designed to ensure that workers don’t leave free money on the table. That’s essentially what a match is — a free, instant return on your contributions.
Maximizing the match doesn’t mean you’re contributing enough for a comfortable retirement, however. The match may be 50 cents for every dollar you contribute, but most companies won’t match more than 6% of your salary. Most people need to save more than that — sometimes much more, especially if they got a late start.
If your company’s 401(k) doesn’t offer a match, then you will need to save more to make up for the free money you aren’t getting. Because most plans offer a match, though, it may be worthwhile to look for an employer that offers this benefit as it can make retirement saving easier.
To figure out how much you need to save, use a retirement calculator such as the one at the AARP.org website.