401(k)s

401(k) Accounts

Have you ever wondered how you can strengthen your retirement savings plan as an employee? Retirement planning is something every individual thinks about at some time or another. To have a comfortable and secure retirement, you have to ensure that you have some source of income in retirement.

Social security is one such source. However, it is only applicable once you are 62 and might not be enough for you to achieve your long-term goals of retirement and live as comfortably as you would like to.

401k is a contribution plan that links employees and employers and grows your savings! Employer contributions are a major part of 401k and make it distinct from other types of retirement accounts.

Read ahead to know all about 401k and how it can be beneficial for you to form a powerful retirement strategy!

What is a 401k?

401k is a retirement plan offered by employers to their employees so that they can benefit at retirement from a tax advantage. 401k is a workplace retirement plan. Hence, it would be best if you were employed with a company that supports this plan. 401k provides employees with a great opportunity to save money reliably with the help of their employer.

Many companies have started offering this plan to their employees as an incentive to help them save money for the future. This offering also attracts many new candidates to join their company as it secures their retirement investment.

How Does a 401k Work?

How a 401(k) account works

Employers provide their employees with a 401k account. However, not every single employer or company needs to be willing to offer a 401k account. While those who do, there are certain conditions. Such as working for a particular amount of time at a company to qualify for a 401K account.

If you want to open a 401k account with your employer, you will be required to inform your employer. You will also have to tell them the amount of money you want to be removed from your paycheck and put into your 401k account.

Whatever amount you propose will be then deducted from your paycheck and put into the 401k account after-tax has been cut from it. However, depending on the type of account you choose, the contributions can also be pre-tax.

However, you will be subject to withdrawal tax once you plan to withdraw if the contributions made are after-tax.

The main feature of 401k is that it offers employer-match. This means that whatever amount you propose to be added to the 401k account, your employer will match that amount and add it to your account. This amount is a certain percentage of your salary. Sometimes, employers might add half or even the full amount of what you contribute.

Hence, in a 401K, employer and employee-contributions go hand in hand to help your money grow tax-deferred.

Your retirement investment will depend on what investment options you choose. However, it is to note that in 401k, the investment options are not very wide and are restricted by the company. Usually, mutual funds options are available such as bond mutual funds and stock mutual funds. You can also invest in your own company's stocks or money market funds. And the types of investments you choose can impact the rate of return.

401k has one of the highest annual contribution limits among many other retirement accounts.

Withdrawal depends on the kind of 401k account you have chosen. Normally, 401k contributions are tax-deferred; hence, the withdrawals are taxed. If you plan to withdraw money before 59 and a half, you will be subject to a 10% withdrawal penalty fee. However, hardship withdrawals are allowed in some cases, such as unexpected financial needs like medical expenses, purchasing a house, etc. This is because the purpose of 401k is to make you save money rather than use it before time. This penalty will make you wary of using the money from your 401k account.

Contribution Limits

401k supports a high annual contribution limit. In 2022, as a 50+ individual, the maximum yearly contribution you can make is up to $27,000, which includes a catch-up contribution limit of $6,500. If you are under 50, then your contribution limit is $20,500. However, the combined contribution limit for both employer and employee cannot exceed the hefty sum of $61,000 or $67,500 in the case of being over 50 years old.

Required Minimum Distributions

If you have a traditional 401k account, you will be prone to required minimum distributions after you reach a certain age.

You will be required to withdraw money once you reach the age of 72 mandatorily. These distributions will also be taxed on withdrawal.

Types of 401k Accounts

401(k) account types

The two main options for 401k are Traditional 401k and Roth 401k. Both support employer contribution; however, they differ slightly in taxes, contributions, and withdrawals.

Traditional 401k

In a traditional 401k, the employee contributions are taken out from the paycheck before income taxes are cut. This means that the contributions are cut from the gross income.

The advantage of this is that your income tax is lowered. And no taxes are to be paid for your contributions until and unless you decide to withdraw the money. There is no income limit on traditional plans either.

Traditional 401k is best for those individuals who think their tax bracket will be lower once they retire. This way, they will have to pay fewer taxes.

Roth 401k

In a Roth 401k, you make contributions to the account after-tax. The money added to your 401k account will be after the income tax has been deducted from the money. Additionally, once you withdraw the money in your retirement, you will not be required to pay any extra taxes. Hence, in Roth 401, there are no taxes on your investment earnings or contributions.

Similar to a traditional 401k plan, there is no income limit for a Roth 401k.

Individuals who think they might be in a greater tax bracket after retiring should opt for Roth 401k so that they do not have to pay high amounts of taxes once they retire.

Benefits of 401k

Benefits of 401(k) retirement accounts

401k has several benefits at retirement that make it very desirable to save money for retirement. Some of the benefits of a 401k account have been highlighted as follows:

Higher Contribution Limits

The contribution limits of a 401k are pretty high. Hence, you can accumulate a lot of money as savings and have a comfortable retirement.

Matching Contributions

In a 401k, you are getting free money from your employer. Employers will match a certain percentage of your contribution and add it to your account. This way, your savings will accumulate. For example, if you decide to contribute 6% of your paycheck, your employer might contribute half of what you do and contribute 3% of that amount. This is a great incentive for employers to promote retirement savings for employees.

Tax-Deferred Investment

For 401k, the contributions made are pre-tax dollars, reducing your taxable income. Before being added to your account, no income tax is cut from your contributions. Hence, the current income tax you will have to pay will be less. After all, this plan will reduce your income too. As some of it will be directly added to your 401k account. Hence, the money accumulated in your account will be tax-deferred, and you will have to pay the income tax later.

You will have to pay tax on the withdrawal. However, that is not a huge disadvantage because you will most likely withdraw the money when you retire. And when you retire, due to your age, your tax rate will be less too. And if you plan to retire in a place where the tax rate is extremely low, you will be at an even greater advantage.

However, through a Roth 401k, you can make contributions after-tax.

Enlightenment from An Investment Pro

As the employer provides 401k, there are chances that you will be able to consult a financial advisor to understand better what should be your steps for investment for retirement and to get solid investment advice.

This will help you make wise investment decisions and benefit from investment gains once you retire.

The financial advisor can also guide you to the best investing strategy based on your risk tolerance and retirement goals.

Wrapping Up

Retirement savings can be necessary to lead a comfortable life in your golden years. There are many different options for retirement accounts that one can choose from. TSP, Individual Retirement Accounts, 403b, and 401k are common.

Social security and a pension plan might not be enough to live like you want to in your retirement. You might not be able to achieve your retirement life goals. Hence, retirement accounts are important.

A 401k is ideal for employees as it is a workplace retirement contribution plan and will greatly benefit you due to employer contributions and company match!

Hence, you should take advantage of your employer's offer of a 401k plan to grow your retirement savings!

401(k) Resources
Other Retirement Accounts

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