I know you've heard plenty of times that you have to fund your 401(k). But let me be clear about this. Maxing out your 401(k) is the single surest thing you can do to put yourself on track to a prosperous retirement. A 401(k) gives you the biggest bang for every buck you save, so if you are not making maximum use of yours, you're not really serious about retirement.
To begin with, you get an upfront tax break on the money you contribute to a 401(k). The most you can sock away in pretax dollars this year is $15,500, or $20,500 if you're 50 or older. Because your employer likely kicks in matching funds (typically half of what you contribute up to 6 percent of your salary), you're effectively starting off with a 50% return on your investment. And you pay no taxes on your earnings until you withdraw the money.
If all of that isn't lure enough, think about the convenience: Your 401(k) contributions flow directly from your paycheck, eliminating the natural tendency to spend your money before you can save it.