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All the ways you can mess up your 401(k) — even if you max out your contributions

Workplace retirement plans get a lot of bad press, primarily if they are loaded with high fees.

But truth be told, 401(k) retirement plans have been a boon to millions of Americans with access to them. In total, 55 million savers held $5.3 trillion in these plans at the end of 2017, according to industry data.

Put simply, 401(k)s work. In addition to providing an income-tax break, the plans are designed to fend off our worst impulses. For instance, you pay a penalty plus taxes due for withdrawing money too early. So people tend to leave money alone to grow and compound — and that’s huge.

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