Are you doing the right things?

You are if you can say yes to these four questions about your investing and money-management habits. If not, you have some work to do.

Are you maxing out your 401(k)?
Assumes starting salary of $40,000, 4% annual raises, 10% contribution and 8% annual returns. Source: MONEY research
Are you maxing out your 401(k)?
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.
401(k) Chart Progress More Tax Breaks Safety Net
4 steps for boosting returns and reducing risk. (more)

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2015 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015 and/or its affiliates.

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2015 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015 and/or its affiliates.