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What is 401k?


Among the common benefits packages American employers promise job seekers is the 401k retirement plan. We have witnessed people pick some employment offers over others due to the availability of this plan. This begs the question, what is 401K and how important is it?

This is a plan created by the American government to encourage employees to save part of their income for retirement. However, the real fuel behind the success of this plan is the incentives it bears. Of course, employees won’t be so eager to part with their income if they don’t stand to gain anything.

There’s so much to learn about this retirement plan. From the different types to their unique benefits. With this article, you will gain a firm grasp of this scheme. So, let’s begin.

What is 401K?

A 401k plan is otherwise referred to as a workplace retirement plan or employer’s benefits. It is an arrangement where an employer contributes an agreed amount from a worker’s gross income into a retirement account. The plan gets its title from a section of the U.S. Internal Revenue Record.

This is different from a pension plan, where savings are not invested. Contributions in a 401K plan can be diverted to multiple investment options from your company’s plan provider. Now, this is a literal representation of laying your eggs in different baskets.

Furthermore, enjoying these benefits depends on our understanding of this investment strategy. To better understand this plan, we must study its types and features.

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Types of 401k plans

According to the IRS, four major types of 401k retirement plans are available to employees in the United States of America. They include;

  • Traditional 401k: On this account, contributions are not taxed with your initial income but deferred to retirement or a later withdrawal time. Traditional 401(k) is a good plan for low-income earners.
  • Safe Harbor 401k: This is a plan that makes room for employers to match contributions. Employees who qualify for this savings option will get a particular amount depending on their agreement with the company.
  • Simple 401k: The essence of this plan is to create a cost-efficient method that helps employees in small businesses access retirement benefits. Employers must make contributions that are vested in full.
  • Roth 401k: This plan also offers tax advantages for investors. Unlike the traditional account, Roth 401(k) savers get tax breaks only at retirement because their contributions are taxed from the onset. You can opt for this if you expect to join the league of high taxpayers.

401k Restrictions and Caveats

To begin, new savers must pay to set up a 401(k) account. The essence of an enrollment fee is to facilitate account management and cover investment and consulting costs.

No matter the type of plan you go for, your contributions have an annual limit. Account limits are changed yearly.

Loans from 401K accounts will attract penalties and taxes if they are not repaid after five years. In the case an account holder switches jobs and leaves their debt unpaid after 60 days, it automatically becomes a distribution.

How to withdraw funds from a 401(k)

The original intent behind the creation of this plan is savings for retirement income. To achieve this, strict plans must be put in place. Some are IRS rules but differ by your choice of accounts.

As a general rule, retirement is the only basis for the withdrawal of funds from accounts. At this time, an account is expected to have existed for five years, while its owner should be at least 59 ½.

Withdrawals outside this clause are subject to penalties, which may include a 10% tax. In addition, a 20% income tax must be paid for early withdrawals. The only exception is on account of emergency expenses.

This does not apply to investors who check all the boxes for withdrawals. Depending on the Required Minimum Distributions (RMD), they can start enjoying their withdrawals. An RMD is the least amount you can take yearly from your savings.


Regarding 401k plans, employers may decide to match contributions or share some profits with serious savers. This makes this plan an avenue to build financial wealth to sustain you after retirement.

To avoid a retiree’s regret, you need a proper guide to help you make informed decisions. With this article on your side, you can confidently choose a retirement savings plan that optimizes returns.




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