A 401k is a retirement plan which allows people to save up money over the long term and prepare for retirement. Basically the money is taken out of your paycheck before it can be taxed and invested into the plan.
The money is then invested into investments that are considered to be “risk free” or at least “low risk”. Eventually when you reach retirement age you will be able to take the money out and use it to pay for your retirement, travel the world, or whatever you see yourself doing after you quit your job.
All and all it can help people save money for their retirement. But there is a major flaw in the 401k system, it simply takes too long. The 401k is built to help people who expect to be working for someone else their whole life actually be able to support themselves when they become too old to work any longer.
There are plenty of ways to make a much higher return on your money than simply investing into a 401k. Opening up a private trading account and learning to trade the stock market for instance can be a powerful way of making a much higher return.
There is only one problem with this; it can be a lot riskier than simply putting the money in a 401k where it will be invested into mutual funds and bonds. The more experience you get with managing risk the better off you can become, but there is still some risk involved in trading.
A great compromise can be to use both plans. Opening up a trading account and learning to trade can have untold successes accompanies with it, while at the same time 401ks can be safer and have next to no risk associated with them. By having one of each an investor and shoot for the moon, but not be affect if he misses it or runs into a few bumps in the road.
For more on 401k’s visit this page on 401k info. Or for more on stock trading visit this site about the stock market basics. This article, Using a 401k as a Back up Safety Plan is released under a creative commons attribution license.