Chapter 18. Make the Most of a Subpar 401(k) Plan

I've learned a lot of life lessons from my mother, but one of the most important is the ability to make the best of what seems like a lousy break. When I was in third grade and the eye doctor was outfitting me with my first pair of glasses (gold wire frames, no less), Mom confidently assured me that some fashion models actually chose to wear spectacles. When my father was too busy to take a family vacation one summer, she invented the "staycation" long before that word existed, carting my sisters and me to Chicago museums, restaurants, and a matinee of A Chorus Line. When the chicken pox kept me from seeing my beloved Chicago Cubs on my birthday, she and Dad donated our tickets to a local children's home and asked the folks at Wrigley Field to say my name over the PA system. They did, and I swelled with pride as I watched the game from our rec room that afternoon. Who knew that being a benefactor could be just as much fun as being there in person?

In a similar vein, if you've checked your company retirement plan (see Chapter 15 for details on how to do this) and determined that it's subpar, you can take steps to make the most of it. Of course, if it's really a stinker and you're not earning any matching contributions, you may be better off avoiding it and investing through a vehicle like a Roth IRA; Chapter 19 includes guidance on how to prioritize various retirement savings vehicles.

But 401(k) contribution limits are much more generous ...

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