78% of workers are ignoring ‘the greatest money-making asset’

Saving for a secure retirement requires a number of money-smart strategies coming together, and in the eyes of workers, some factors seem more integral to success than others.

Topping the list in a recent survey from Principal Financial Group: getting a matching contribution from your employer in your 401(k) plan. Nearly two-thirds — 62% — of workers identified company matches as important for reaching retirement goals.

That workers are fond of the match shouldn’t be surprising, says Tess Zigo, a certified financial planner at LPL Financial in Palm Harbor, Florida. “We like to refer to that as ‘free money,’ and it is,” she told Grow. “If I’m putting in 3% of my money and you’re putting in 3% of your money, sign me up! I’m taking your money.”

Getting “free money” is a no-brainer. It’s math. Which is why it’s somewhat curious that only 22% of employees in the survey identified starting investing early (in one’s twenties) as important to building a secure retirement.

To some experts, like IRAHelp.com publisher and certified public accountant Ed Slott, the remaining 78% are making a major goof. “The greatest money-making asset anyone can possess is time,” he says.

Here’s why you should prioritize both to maximize your chances of building wealth toward retirement. Here’s a hint: The advantage of starting early comes down to math, too.

Getting a match is ‘the No. 1 thing’

If you’re choosing how to invest for retirement, you’d be wise to prioritize your workplace retirement plan, Grant Sabatier, a millionaire early retiree and author of “Financial Freedom,” told Grow. “The No. 1 thing is to invest enough to get the 401(k) match,” he says. “That’s 100% free money. If they match 50% of your contribution, that’s a 50% return.”

If your company offers a 401(k), chances are it offers some kind of matching contribution as well. Of workplaces that offer 401(k) plans, 98% make contributions to their workers’ retirement savings, according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America. The most common set-up: The company…

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