Most Americans missing out on money by not investing in 401(k)

Posted at 5:42 PM, Feb 24, 2017

New findings show that while most Americans have a job with a retirement plan, less than half are contributing to that plan on their own.

Susan Webber knows first hand how important having a 401(k) is.

"I went through a very expensive divorce and I had to pull money," Webber says. "And that was the only place that I could pull it from and I'm grateful that I had it."

But her situation isn't the norm. New research found many Americans aren't contributing to their 401(k), putting their retirement in jeopardy.

According to the U.S. Census bureau 79 percent of Americans work at places that have a 401(k) type plan, but only 41 percent of those employees contribute to it. The result? Two-thirds of all Americans don't contribute anything to a 401(k) or other retirement account available through their employer.

The reasons go beyond not being able to spare the cash. Many workers are not eligible, don't know the program is available, or just aren't signing up.

Investment Advisor Patrick Lynch helps people sign up for 401(k)'s for the first time and says it's not too late to start.

"What they need to do is to redouble their efforts," Lynch says. "Take advantage of the 401(k) matches that are offered within your company plan." 

For those who can't open a 401(k) through an employer, they can open one on their own — but won't be able to invest as much. But Lynch says there are some incentives in investing later in life.

"Once you get over 50 the government allows us to do catch up provisions," Lynch said. "So they allow you to go through that up by $1,000 on an individual basis or $6,000 on a 401(k)."

But is it possible to save as much as those who have been saving for many years?

"It is possible for you to but you need to start and you need to start now," Lynch says. "That's the most important part of this."

For those living paycheck to paycheck, Lynch says even investing five to ten dollars a week can make a difference and start to add up.