Question: I recently started back to work part-time now that our two children are older and my husband took a 50% pay cut. I teach as an adjunct instructor at the university and am scheduled to make about $25,000 in 2010. I have to decide whether or not to elect to participate in their defined-contribution retirement plan in the next week, and the decision cannot be changed down the road. If I participate, I'll have to contribute 5% of my pre-tax salary, and the university will match with 8%, and I am immediately vested. Melissa, Northampton, MA

Answer: It's easy to sit here at a computer and write; of course you should participate in the retirement savings plan. I understand that money is tight right now. A 50% pay cut is hard to absorb. I don't like that it's an irrevocable decision, either.

That said, I would strongly encourage you to participate in the retirement savings plan. The most important reason is that the 8% match is simply too good to pass up. It's your money, too, with immediate vesting. Hopefully, your financial circumstances will improve over time too as the economy slowly recovers. My guess is that in a couple of years you'll be glad you're contributing to it.

Follow Chris Farrell at @cfarrellecon