decision fatigue

Decide to Use Your Company’s 401k in 4 Easy Steps

Although cutting-edge benefits like wellness programs, unlimited paid time off, and flextime are getting all of the positive press these days, it’s important to remember some of the classics. One tried and true benefit that your company may offer is a 401k. Whether you’re deciding between job offers, starting to look into companies with certain benefits, or just deciding which benefits you want to utilize at your current company, these four easy steps will help you decide whether a company’s 401k is a perk that you want to take advantage of.

1. Is There a Match? The main benefit of a company offered 401k over a Roth IRA or an IRA is that many companies offer to match a percentage of your contributions. Essentially, this is free money. If there is a match offered at your company, setting some money aside to contribute to your 401k is generally a great idea.

2. How Are the Fees? Fees may seem like a small percentage but they can really add up over time. Typically when an employer offers a 401k with match the match will more than cover the fees, but this is important to look into. You may notice that it’s easier to find an IRA or a Roth IRA with a lower fee which will maximize your retirement savings over time.

3. When Will You Retire? Employer 401k’s are often locked from withdrawals until age 59 ½. Although you can take your money out ahead of time, you’ll be subject to serious penalties. If you’re planning on retiring early, make sure you have other funds set aside because you won’t be able to pull from your 401k until later in life without losing a lot of your money.

4. Will You Need Other Flexibility? From medical expenses to college funds, from large purchases to large vacations, there are a lot of savings motivators that won’t be fulfilled by contributing to your 401k. It’s important to set money aside for retirement but, when you contribute to your 401k, you’re subject to large fees if you withdraw before age 59 ½. If any of these large expenses cannot be covered by other savings accounts or IRAs, you may be stuck in a lose-lose situation.

Assessing the usefulness of a company’s benefits can help you find the perfect job for you. While saving for retirement is an incredibly good idea, there are many ways to go about it. Use these four steps to decide how much to contribute to your company’s 401k, if anything at all.