There is no such thing as a free lunch, except when it comes to employers who match their employee’s 401(k) contributions. This is the closest to free money you’ll ever get.
If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that has a matching plan, congratulations–not everyone does! A matching plan means that the company you work for contributes a certain amount of money to your retirement savings plan. How much it contributes will depend on the 401(k) plan, how much you contribute to your 401(k) and how generous your company is. Many will match a percentage of employee contributions, with a cap on a portion of the total salary, while others match up to a certain dollar amount, regardless of the salary. Investopedia published an article, “How 401(k) Matching Works,” that explains the mysteries of employer match contributions.
The specific terms of 401(k) plans vary considerably. Other than the requirement to adhere to certain required contribution limits and withdrawal regulations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the sponsoring employer decides on the specific terms of each 401(k) plan. Whatever the match amount, it’s free money added to your retirement savings.