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Should I still contribute to my retirement account if my employer doesn’t match?

What you need to ask yourself first to decide.

Employer matching programs have served as a powerful incentive for workers to fund their retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). You may have even heard that saving anything less than the employer match is leaving free money on the table. However, no company is required to match, and many have suspended matching to conserve cash during uncertain times.

Just because your employer doesn’t match, does that mean you should stop contributions too?

Our inbox has been flooded with this question lately, but it is entirely too vague to answer with a simple yes or no.

However, answering this one question may help guide your decision during these uncertain times we’re all living through:

Do you have a cash flow shortage?

IF YES…

If your household has been subject to a temporary income reduction that has restricted your budget (or you anticipate this may happen in the next 12 months), pausing your retirement contributions can free up some cash in your budget to help you stay afloat. That DOES NOT mean you should cease contributions just because you want to order more takeout or do some online shopping.

FYI: Decreasing pre-tax contributions increases your tax liability. Do the math before making any changes as you may not want to get any surprise tax bills at the end of the year.

IF NO…

Stay the course.

If building long-term wealth is a non-negotiable financial priority, this may be a great time to boost your savings. Not only does this help you stay on track to reaching your longer-term financial goals, it may also reduce your taxable income.

If you can’t stomach the market volatility, you can shift to a more conservative portfolio allocation or let your contributions sit in cash or invested in a money market fund inside your 401(k) or 403(b) for the very short-term.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Not receiving an employer match isn’t a valid reason to stop saving for retirement. Some companies may take years to recover from this crisis and may suspend matching until then, but that doesn’t mean you should put your financial goals on hold if it isn’t necessary to do so. From our experience working with clients, delaying your savings for too long is not an ingredient for a comfortable retirement.

I'm Helen

Having worked in finance for over a decade, I know what matters most to clients. Here, I share with you what you really need to do to stay on top of your money and retire rich.
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