How does an employer match work?

Some employers will match a portion of your retirement contributions, up to a certain limit. For example, they might put 50 cents into your account for every dollar you put in, up to 6% of your salary. If you contribute at least 6% of each paycheck, you’ll get the full match.

Some employers also set up a default contribution to help employees get the full match automatically.

Here’s an example of how this could look over a year:

Here's an example

Employer match Employee salary Employee contributions Employer contributions Total yearly contributions

50%, up to 6% of employee's salary


6% of salary

(or $3,600 a year)

3% of salary

(or $1,800 a year)

9% of salary

(or $5,400 a year)

Here’s an example of how this could look over a year:

In this example, you contributed enough to get the full match. So your employer paid you an additional $1,800—just for saving toward your retirement goal.

Can you contribute more than the match?

It’s smart to contribute at least the amount your employer will match. But you can usually contribute more. In 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000. If you’re turning 50 by year’s end, you can also make a catch-up contribution of $6,000, for a total of $25,000.1

Check with your employer about the best way to size and schedule your contributions. In some cases, contributing the max before year’s end can cause you to miss out on matching for the rest of the year

What you can do next