Your workplace 401(k) may be one of the best, most convenient accounts to use for retirement.

With generous tax breaks, a high contribution limit, and an easy way to make contributions before you even receive your paychecks, 401(k)s simplify the retirement investing process and make it easier to amass a generous nest egg.

The trick, however, is to understand what's involved in making the most of them. If you want to maximize the benefits yours provides, consider taking these three 401(k) steps ASAP in 2022.

Two adults looking at financial paperwork.

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1. Review employer matching rules

An employer match occurs when a company contributes to your 401(k) after you put your own money into your account. Companies may match 100% of your contributions up to 4% or your salary or use another system, such as contributing 50% of up to 6% of your salary. Vanguard data, however, shows the median 401(k) match is 4% of a worker's salary.

Because requirements can differ, you need to know your individual company's rules for matching contributions. If you don't already know how this process works, find out as soon as you can in 2022. That way, you'll have all year to claim as much of the free money available to you from your employer as possible -- and you'll know exactly what you need to do in order to do that. 

2. Sign up for automatic contributions of an appropriate amount

After learning the rules for the employer match, sign up to contribute at least enough each month to get the full amount that your company is willing to give you.

There is no other way to get a guaranteed return equaling as much as 50% or 100% of the amount you invest for your future. It can be challenging enough to save for retirement, but it's crucial you do so, since Social Security alone can't support you. Missing out on any matching funds just makes investing the requisite amount needlessly more difficult.

If you sign up to have automatic withdrawals taken from your paycheck starting as early as possible in 2022, you can usually make reasonable contributions each month that will add up to enough to at least earn the full match.

Many company programs also match only a certain percentage each pay period, so waiting until the end of the year to try to max out your match may not even be possible. 

3. Review your investments

Putting money into your 401(k) is a crucial first step to ensuring your retirement account provides the security you deserve in your later years. You'll also want to make sure your money you've contributed to your account is invested wisely.

That's why you should review your investment mix in your 401(k) as soon as possible in 2022. Make sure you're invested in:

  • A diverse mix of different assets to reduce your investing risk.
  • A mix of assets appropriate to your age, as younger investors should be more heavily invested in stocks while they still have a long investing timeline and can wait out market downturns. 
  • Investments that don't charge exorbitant fees that will eat into your account balance and reduce returns.

By taking these three steps as soon as the new year starts, you can maximize the chances of your 401(k) making you a millionaire -- or at least allowing you to amass a large enough nest egg that you don't have to worry about money after leaving the working world.