Many employers offer a 50 percent match for every dollar you contribute out of your paycheck, up to a limit of around 6 percent of your salary. Despite the appeal of an automatic 50 percent gain, benefits consulting firm Hewitt Associates reports that about one in five eligible participants fails to take full advantage of the program. Don't be one of them: Call your human resources department and make sure your contribution rate qualifies you for your employer's maximum match.
2. The Roth IRA
It's the Swiss Army knife of investments: In an emergency you can withdraw your contributions without owing any tax or penalty; if necessary, you can use them to help pay for college; and it's great for preserving assets you intend to pass on to your heirs. Best of all, in retirement your withdrawals will be tax-free—and you're not required to withdraw annually as you are with a traditional IRA or 401(k).
3. Term Life Insurance
Websites such as SelectQuote.com and AccuQuote.com will shop among multiple insurers to find you the best deal, but a 40-year-old woman in good health will likely pay $30 or so a month for a $500,000 20-year guaranteed term policy. In my book, spending just $30 a month for peace of mind that your family will be taken care of is a major bargain.