Why Didn't I Learn This in School: 401, K?

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So, you've landed a new job and your employer's offering you a 401(k).

No, this isn't some long-distance running event -- It's a retirement savings account.

It is a financial marathon of sorts, and if you start one up now, it's also the best way to ensure that you won't need to work all day, every day, for the rest of your life.

SEE MORE: 5 ways American retirement is changing

First, decide how much of your paycheck you want to contribute each month -- and your employer will match that. It's technically "free" money!

Because it gets invested, the money in your 401(k) has a higher growth rate than it would just sitting in your savings account.

Plus, those dollars aren't taxed until you withdraw it -- hopefully at retirement.

Click through for 6 job perks you should always negotiate:

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6 job perks you should negotiate
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6 job perks you should negotiate

1. More vacation time 

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2. Flex time (ability to work from home and at different hours)

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3. A better official title for your position 

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4. Commuting reimbursement 

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5. A severance package

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6. Designated office space

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7. Continued education tuition reimbursement

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But there's always a catch.

At most companies, you need to work there long enough for the money to vest. When it comes to 401(k) plans, vesting means you have to work at your company for a given time in order to collect the money they put in. So, figure out if those extra dollars are worth hanging around for.

SEE ALSO: Is the US profiting from student loans?

Regardless of when you leave, remember that all the money that you originally contribute goes with you -- so you do still save.

You freelancers don't need to sweat it, either. Even if you're working solo, you can get in the race too.

Look in the multiple types of IRA's, or Individual Retirement Accounts. These let you save money tax free for retirement, even if you don't have a company matching funds.

The tax man does catch up with you eventually, but by that time, your investments will have made you a ton more bank.

To make sure you're living large in your golden years, you'll need at least 70 percent of your pre-retirement income per year to live on.

You can't outrun the reality of your future -- so look into a 401(k) and kick-start your head start.

Want to learn more about retirement? See the best states for retirees in 2016:

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Top 10 states for retirement
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Top 10 states for retirement

10. Tennessee

(Joel Carillet)

9. Louisiana

(Antony Nagelmann via Getty Images)

8. Delaware

(Nick Pedersen via Getty Images)

7. Georgia

(Henryk Sadura via Getty Images)

6. Florida 

(Anne Rippy via Getty Images)

5. South Dakota

(Stefano Salvetti via Getty Images)

4. Mississippi

(Sean Pavone via Getty Images)

3. Nevada

2. Wyoming

(WeiliLi via Getty Images)

1. Alaska

(sorincolac via Getty Images)

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