For many if not most of us, the money we've socked away in our employer-sponsored retirement plan represents the lion's share of our nest eggs. Trouble is, all too few of us take maximum advantage of our plans. And even those who do might not be putting money to work in other investment vehicles that also provide tax-favored earnings growth.

Some folks, however -- perhaps even the coworker stationed in the next cube -- know exactly what it takes to get the job done.

Want the inside scoop? For starters you should ...

Take the money and run
If your company matches retirement plan contributions up to a certain level, make sure to kick in at least as much as they'll match.

Even if your firm's plan isn't the greatest in the world, it's hard to beat doubling your money while reducing your taxable income. And of course, if you're among the lucky workers whose plan offers a cream-of-the-crop lineup -- low-cost offerings that provide access to funds that hold high-quality big boys like Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and IBM (NYSE:IBM) as well as smaller fish like RealNetworks (NASDAQ:RNWK), Grey Wolf (AMEX:GW), and Marvel Enterprises (NYSE:MVL) -- the deal is sweet indeed.

Take it to the limit
Another smart way for retirement-minded workers (i.e., all of us) to proceed is with a Roth IRA. You can contribute to a Roth in addition to the moola you plunk down in your 401(k), and savvy investors should do just that. Yes, unlike a traditional IRA, you'll invest after-tax dollars. The tradeoff, though, is that when you pass the 59-and-a-half-year mark, you're free to tap those proceeds -- which grow on a tax-free basis -- without paying Uncle Sam a single cent in taxes.

When it comes to preparing for your financial future, then, a Roth is another deal that's tough to beat.

Stay informed
If you want to retire in style while meeting important near-term goals like buying a house or funding a child's college education, it pays (literally!) to stay up to speed on your options for getting those jobs done. Indeed, even -- or especially -- investing newbies should strive to stay abreast of the strategies that are available, and helping you do just that is one of the reasons the Fool introduced its GreenLight service earlier this year.

In the newsletter issue that hit the streets yesterday, my co-Fool Dayana Yochim zeroes in on ways of boosting your earnings potential and making the most of your workplace benefits. She also provides a handy-dandy to-do list for procrastinators. Meanwhile I -- just in time for the holidays -- focus on giving the gift of investing to your kids and on choice investment opportunities plucked from the market's retail sector.

Sound like a useful twofer? Good deal. Just click here, and you can snag a completely free 30-day GreenLight guest pass. If you find it's not for you, you're free to head for the exits, but I have a hunch you'll stick around: GreenLight aims to help you cover all your financial bases.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises GreenLight with his pal Dayana Yochim. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Marvel is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Intel is an Inside Value selection. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy by clicking right here.