Why a 401(k) Savings Plan is Vital for Your Retirement

Many employers incentivize employees to participate in retirement plans by offering a match on their contributions. It is free money that you can’t afford to pass up.

401(k)s also make saving easy by automatically deducting money from your paycheck. They usually offer various investment options, including low-cost index funds and target-date investments that adjust your portfolio as you approach retirement age.

Tax-deferred growth

As the name suggests, 401(k) accounts allow participants to invest pretax money and then defer paying income taxes on the contributions and investment returns until they withdraw the funds in retirement. In the meantime, those investments grow tax-free (unlike a bank savings account, where you must pay taxes on every dollar you earn).

Most 401(k) savings plan provide employer matching dollars, in which your company agrees to contribute a percentage of what you put into the plan. Be brave about making enough contributions to receive the full benefit, whether a complete, dollar-for-dollar match up to a certain percentage of your salary or a smaller matching amount.

Another key benefit: If you withdraw money from your 401(k) before you retire, you’ll be hit with a 10% penalty tax unless you qualify for an exception. That’s a big reason to stay invested in your 401(k) as long as possible.

Because of the power of compounding, your 401(k) balance will increase dramatically if you have patience. But remember, seeing the benefits of compounding takes years if not decades. Sticking with your long-term plan is essential, even during a market downturn. Working with a financial planner who can assist you in developing and adhering to a strategy is the best approach to achieving that.

Employer match

It could be necessary to inform employees about the advantages of their company match for their 401(k) plan. Companies offer half of 4.7% of employees’ pretax paychecks on average. It equates to an additional $900 per year for the average worker.

Employers offer a 401(k) match to attract and retain talented employees. It also incentivizes workers to make early contributions to the plan since funds grow tax-deferred and are only subject to income taxes once they’re withdrawn at retirement age.

In addition, 401(k) plans are portable and can be transferred when an employee switches to a new company if the old method allows it. Alternatively, it can be moved into an individual retirement account (an IRA). IRAs typically have lower fees and offer more investment options than employer-sponsored plans.

However, essential differences exist between a traditional or SIMPLE IRA and a 401(k). For instance, conventional and SIMPLE IRAs do not have employer-matching contributions. Additionally, if employees take distributions from their retirement account before age 59 1/2, they will be subject to an income tax penalty of 10%. In contrast, 401(k) distributions are subject to only a 7% tax penalty.

Investing options

In addition to the employer matching contribution, 401(k) savings plans provide participants various investing options. They can choose to invest in mutual and exchange-traded funds that track a broad range of stocks or bonds or pick one of the more popular target date fund options. These funds adjust your portfolio based on the years until retirement, shifting toward lower-risk investments as you get closer.

Financial services companies frequently manage 401(k) plans. It is the company from whom you will receive important information and disclosures about your account. Regardless of who works your budget, investing in a diverse portfolio of low-cost funds is a good idea.

The best strategies to maximize the return on your 401(k) investments are through regular contributions and commitment to your investment strategy, even during market instability or uncertainty. Avoid taking withdrawals from your account to pay for emergencies or to take advantage of a stock price rebound.

Some 401(k) plans include expert guidance to determine how much to contribute and which investments best meet your financial objectives. Those who don’t have access to a financial advisor can use the free tool to connect with vetted local advisors at no cost.


A 401(k) allows employees to invest money regularly. This money is channeled into investment options with the help of a theory called dollar-cost averaging, which many experts believe to be a prudent investing methodology. Despite this, not all 401(k) plans are created equal, and the quality of one method can make or break an employee’s retirement savings potential.

For example, 401(k) fees can eat away at an investment’s returns for a lifetime. These fees are often invisible to investors, as they are hidden “off the top” of investment returns and share prices. A 2018 survey found that 37 percent of account holders needed to be aware of the fees they paid in their 401(k) plan, and only 27 percent understood how these fees could impact their retirement portfolio.

For this reason, it’s crucial for investors to seek out low-cost 401(k) plans that don’t charge excessive fees. Some examples include 401k, which doesn’t charge sales loads, 12b-1 fees, exchange fees, or minimum balance fees. Additionally, it prepares a no-cost fee check report for its customers, so they can see exactly how much their 401(k) is costing them. It’s essential to know how much you’re paying because, for a lifetime, high fees can reduce your retirement savings by thousands of dollars.

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