People say saving for retirement is hard. The hardest part, though, is the mental game — investing the money when you’d rather spend it. But once you commit to saving, the mechanics of building wealth can be straightforward. You save, invest, and watch your balance grow over time.

You can also add to that formula and multiply your results. There are two retirement savings hacks, in particular, that are so easy and effective, you’ll want to implement them now. Read on to learn more.

1. Take your full employer match

Employer-matching contributions are the most valuable feature of your 401(k). Collecting all your employer match is an easy way to make money — and the wealth potential is tremendous.

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Say you earn an average salary of $55,000 a year and your employer conservatively matches 50% of your contributions up to a cap of 3% of your salary. Under these rules, you’d need to contribute 6% to get the full 3% from your employer.

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The table below shows 30-year results for three scenarios using the above salary and matching rules. The numbers also assume an average growth rate of 7% annually.

Your Contribution Rate

Employer Match Rate

Monthly Total Contributions

Value of Match in 30 Years

Account Balance in 30 Years
















Table data source: Author calculations via

As you can see, the employer match is worth up to $156,000. In real life, it could be worth far more if you could receive raises that outpace inflation.

2. Automate contribution-rate increases

Today, contribute enough to max out your employer match — or more, if your budget allows. Tomorrow, plan on increasing your contribution until you can’t raise it anymore. That’s how you can 10X your retirement savings.

Do this by activating your plan’s auto-escalation feature, if it’s available. This feature automatically raises your contribution rate annually. You can set the increase for 1% or more and time it to align with your yearly performance review. You may not notice the change in your pay, but you’ll see the growth in your retirement account.

How much growth can you expect? Say you earn an annual pay raise of 3%. If you start with a 6% contribution rate and raise it 1% annually until you reach 15%, your 30-year results will tip toward $1 million. That’s more than 10 times the savings balance you’d have with a steady 1% contribution rate.

Efficiency of saving with pre-tax money

The beauty of raising pre-tax retirement contributions is that it doesn’t sting as much as you’d expect. Pre-tax deductions lower your taxable earnings, which, in turn, reduces your payroll taxes. As a result, the dip in your net pay will be lower than the increase in your retirement contribution.

To put some numbers behind this, let’s go back to your $55,000 annual salary. If you are single, live in Florida, and have no federal deductions, your monthly net pay with a 6% 401(k) contribution should be $1,718.

Raise the contribution rate to 7%, and your net pay drops by $17 to $1,701. But your retirement contribution increases by $22. Cool, right? Saving with pre-tax money is efficient — you might as well use that to your advantage.

Commit, then let it roll

Making a choice today to save for retirement, even when it’s uncomfortable, will be the hardest part of your wealth journey. Grab that employer match, set your contributions to rise automatically, and the rest is simple. Wait, watch, tweak the plan as needed, and look ahead to a retirement you’ll love.

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