Your 401k account is a great way to save for your retirement. But lack-luster performance and pesky fees can be lurking in the bushes, waiting to pounce on your nest egg. Cracking your dreams of having truly golden retirement years.

It’s scary having to manage your future on your own, but it only takes a few tweaks to get the most out of your 401k and secure your goal for a pleasant retirement:

1. Take advantage of your company match

A company match is a contribution made to your retirement account by your employer based on the amount that you contribute. For example, if you make $50,000 and your employer will match 100% of your contributions up to 5% of your annual salary, then it means if you contribute 5% of your salary to your 401k, then your employer will also match that contribution 100% and also provide 5% to your 401k on your behalf. If you contribute 2%, then your company will match your 2% add 2% to your account. But if you contribute 10%, your company will match up to 5% and provide no more than 5%.

It’s a great benefit because the company match does not count towards your annual $19,000 contribution limit – meaning it’s ‘extra’ above and beyond the limit, and basically a way to save more in your 401k without taking more out of your pocket.

At the very least, every should invest in their company’s 401k at least up to the company match for two reasons: 1) it’s part of your compensation and not taking advantage of it is tantamount to returning a part of your paycheck and 2) It’s doubling your contribution and we can all use a little help in the contribution department.

Even if the funds available aren’t stellar, you should still do the needful to get your company match.

Check out the numbers: Let’s assume you earn $70,000 and contribute 5% (without company match). With an 8% return, you would save a little more the $587,000 by retirement. Now assume you received a 100% company match up to 5%. You would be able to save double that … over 1 million dollars, without having to save any additional funds yourself or taking away from your take-home income.

Bottom Line: If you have a company match use it.

2. Save as much as you can

If you’re saving at least the minimum for company match then kudos to you! You’re on the right track. But don’t stop there.

Many brilliant people stop contributing after they get the company match, thinking that’s all they need to do, but that’s a mistake. Build on the habit by increasing your contribution by 1% every few months.

Don’t worry if you can’t max out your contributions.

Even just adding 1% can make a difference adding thousands of dollars to your savings. Boosting your chances of exceeding your retirement money goals.

Don’t believe it? Let’s assume you’re 30 years old and earn $70,000 per year. And let’s assume an 8% return on your investment. For every 1% increase in contribution above 5%, you could save an additional $117,000 by the time you retire. That translates to big bucks.

So if you increased your contributions from 5% to 10%, you could earn an additional $587,352 (over half a million dollars) by the time you retire. Not to mention lowering your taxable income.

Calculations on the difference between 5% contribution and a 10% contribution
https://www.calcxml.com/calculators/pay08?skn=#results

That’s a big deal.

Bottom Line: Save as much as you can. Every bit helps.

3. Make sure your investment fees are low

Investment funds provided in your 401k plan all carry a variety of fees. Some fees are needed to advertise the fund, pay for transactions (which include buying, selling, or exchanging mutual fund share) and a host of other possible activities.

Although fees are usually only a few percent; these can really add up and eat a huge chunk out of your profits (a.k.a. the retirement money you need to live on) when you consider that those fees are compounding.

The table below is taken from the NerdWallet research on the impact of fees on investments. It clearly shows that paying a quarter percent in fees costs you over $25,000 in profits after a 30-year investment. And the impact of a 1% fee is nearly $100,000 after 30 years. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Nerdwallet research on the impact of fees on an investment. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/brokerage-commissions-fees/

To secure your financial future you need to know what your fees are and you want them to be at least under .5% – the lower the better.

If you’re not sure how much you are paying in fees, then try Personal Capital’s free Investment Fee analyzer tool.

It’ll check your allocations and fees to find ways for you to save money, recommend an investment plan, and let you know if your current allocations will help you reach your retirement goals.

I’ve never felt more confident and secure in my retirement planning before I started using Personal Capital. And I now use it for so much more – tracking my expenses, working retirement scenarios, tracking the progress of my accounts, and even ensuring that my kid’s college 529 investments will meet my goals.

I can see all my accounts in one place and can know my financial health in a one minute glance. And, of course, it’s 100% FREE. My favorite price.

Bottom Line: Watch your fees. Personal Capital can help

Now you have 3 great tips to maximize your 401k – get the company match, contribute more and keep your fees low. And you even have a tool to help you do it.

If you have another great tip you are using to maximize your 401k then let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe so you can get the weekly updates on courses, strategies, and knowledge we share. Or catch us on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter @WiseMoneyWomen.

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