#3: Maximize your tax-preferred retirement savings.
Only 10% of those eligible for employer-sponsored 401(k) programs maximize their contributions. There are real financial benefits to contributing to your 401(k), and it’s a mistake to turn down that free money, especially if your employer will match all or part of your contributions.
In that same vein, tapping into retirement accounts to pay off bills is almost always a mistake. Unless you absolutely need the money for basic survival, you’re much better off leaving your retirement money alone. Like many things in life, once you tap those funds, it gets easier and easier to do it again.
Before Congress passed the first Social Security Act in 1935, retirement was for a wealthy few. Since then, Social Security has fostered the illusion that we need not worry about money and that retirement doesn’t require a large personal nest egg. Reality is far harsher.
I know people who’ve tried to live on their Social Security alone; now they are all back at work. A happy retirement rarely comes for people who choose to worry about retirement later.