If you're an athlete, 401(k) sounds like it should be the length of some torturous marathon. Retirement as a goal really is like a long, slow marathon, and a well mapped out plan makes finishing on your feet a real possibility.
If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you should take advantage of it immediately — especially if your company matches. Most large company plans match 50 percent of your contributions and up to six percent of your salary. If your match is less than the norm it's still beneficial to participate, because any type of match means free money.
If you think you can't afford to contribute much, start small and increase the contribution amount by one percent each quarter. The contributions you make to your 401(k) are pre-tax dollars, so if you're in a 30 percent combined (federal and state) tax bracket, each dollar you put into a 401(k) will reduce your paycheck by just 70 cents.
Does your employer offer a 401(k)? If so, are you a participant?