2 Sources of Free Retirement Funds You Can't Afford to Pass Up

Saving enough for retirement can be a challenge. You don't want to miss out on opportunities to grow your nest egg.

In particular, there are free sources of money that can help you save for your future. Here are two of them that you can't afford to pass up.

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1. 401(k) match

If you work for a company that offers a 401(k) account, there's a good chance you'll be offered a matching contribution. In fact, according to Vanguard research, the median 401(k) match is 4% of employee pay.

Typically, this is structured so your employer matches either 50% or 100% of the contributions you make up to a maximum percentage of your salary. If you earn around the median income of $51,480, this could mean you get around a $2,059 matching contribution if you're entitled to the full match.

An employer match is free money. You cannot afford to pass this up, because this is money that will help your nest egg grow. Once it's invested, it'll earn returns that will be reinvested and turn into much more money over time. If you get a $2,059 401(k) match each year over a 30-year career, that matching contribution alone can turn into more than $230,000.

You don't want to miss this money, so be sure to contribute at least enough to your 401(k) to earn the full amount of matching contributions your employer is willing to offer.

2. Tax credits and deductions

The government provides generous tax breaks for retirement savings. The specific credits and deductions you can take advantage of depend on your income.

Lower- and middle-income Americans are eligible for the Saver's Credit, which could be worth between 10% and 50% of the amount you contribute to an eligible retirement savings account. For single tax filers, the maximum credit is $1,000 while for married tax filers, the maximum credit is $2,000.

A tax credit provides a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill. If you owe $4,000 in taxes and qualify for the full $2,000 credit, you'd owe just $2,000 in taxes. It's literally free money for investing for retirement. And, again, if you invest $2,000 in free money every year for 30 years, you'd be looking at close to $250,000 extra for your future.

Those who aren't eligible for the Saver's Credit can still get tax breaks by investing in a 401(k) or an IRA. Each of these accounts allows you to invest for your future with pre-tax dollars. In 2021, the 401(k) contribution limit is $19,500, or $26,000 for workers over 50 who are eligible to make catch-up contributions.

Because it reduces your taxable income, each contribution to your account doesn't cost as much. A $19,500 contribution to a 401(k) could save you up to $4,290 on your tax bill if you're in the 22% tax bracket since you would avoid taxes on $19,500 worth of income. That alone is a lot of free money from Uncle Sam -- although you do eventually get taxed on 401(k) withdrawals later in life.

You can't afford to miss out on the help your employer or the government gives you; so be sure you understand the rules for 401(k) matches, contribute enough to get the maximum match, and take full advantage of retirement accounts that provide tax breaks. Doing so can go a long way toward helping you to build a more secure future.

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