How good is the 401(k) retirement plan offered to you by your employer? It can be hard to evaluate, though if your employer matches your contribution, it is almost always smart to save enough in your 401(k) to get the full match. Otherwise, you're just leaving money on the table.
But if your employer doesn't kick in anything or you are saving more than your employer is willing to match, it is a good idea to consider whether putting your retirement savings someplace else makes more sense.
Evaluating the quality of the 401(k) available to you is tricky. One free available tool to help is offered by Brightscope.com, which rates thousands of public company retirement plans on the total plan cost, company generosity and the quality of the investment options. Each company gets a number score from zero to 100, and they are also ranked against competing companies in the same space. While the information doesn't point you toward which investment options are better than others, it does give you a sense of whether you could do better investing outside the plan. And if you are changing jobs, considering the quality of the 401(k) could be an important part of the decision.
What can you do if your 401(k) flunks the test? Brightscope.com recommends that you talk to your plan administrator within the company, and if you have an employee committee that has any clout at all, enlist their help. Some actions that can improve a plan don't cost much and generally benefit everybody. So speaking up could be a real boon to your retirement planning.