Consider an IRA. If your employer doesn't offer a 401(k) match, you can choose between your company's 401(k) and an IRA based on which has better investment choices and lower fees. Both vehicles allow workers to defer taxes until retirement. "Oftentimes you can pick and choose much better investments on the outside than what you will get from your employer," says Frank Armstrong, founder of Investor Solutions and author of The Retirement Challenge—Sink or Swim. "If you are rational and disciplined enough to do it yourself, you would be far better off to go to Vanguard and use their index funds to build a diversified portfolio."
Hoard your match. Companies are required to give employees advance notice of any change to their retirement plans that will reduce or modify the future accrual of benefits. Your plan sponsor can provide you with the other fine print that governs your specific plan. "If you haven't a clue as to what the rules are, it's a little bit like going to Las Vegas and playing roulette and having the house tell you if you won or lost because they won't tell you how the game is played," says Robert Gary, a pension litigation attorney and coauthor of Protecting Your Pension for Dummies. "You should make sure they are following the rules." Studying your employer's specific incentives, fees, and contributions can help you get and retain as many matching dollars as you can before your company makes any cuts.