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The A B C’s of Setting Up Your 401(k)

 the money nerve

The ABC’s of Setting Up Your 401(k)

What is a 401(k)?

Essentially, a 401(k) is a retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer. This plan allows workers to select whether they want a larger paycheck now or to defer some of their money by saving and investing a portion of revenue from their paycheck before taxes are taken out. Different from pension plans where companies managed employees assets, 401 (k)s give workers more autonomy to manage their retirement funds.

Matching Funds, Take It! It’s Free Money.

Many companies also match contributions, often with a 3% or 6% cap. With this type of 401(k) account, taxes are paid when a person begins to withdraw money. If you put in 3% of your $50,000 salary, or $1,500, your company puts another $1,500 in the pot. You can add more than that $1,500 yourself, but the company won’t match beyond 3%.

What is the best type of 401 (k) to open?

Choosing whether to use a Roth 401(k) or a Traditional 401(k) is often determined by age and by salary level. If you are in a higher tax bracket, you may prefer lowering your salary by investing now and paying taxes later, thus the traditional approach may work best. For many people already in a lower tax bracket, it may make more sense to open a Roth 401(k) where you pay the taxes now. This plan also offers some qualified tax-free withdrawals. Just be sure to select a beneficiary or the person who gets your money if you die when you set up your 401(k). And, find out the percentage of fees for your account. You want to keep that below 1 % for maximum savings power.

How Much Can I Invest?

For 2017, the maximum amount of compensation that an employee can defer to a 401(k) plan is $18,000. Employees aged 50 by the end of the year and older can also make additional catch-up contributions of up to $6,000 for a total of $24,000. The maximum allowable employer/employee joint contribution limit remains at $53,000 for 2016 and $54,000 for 2017 (or $59,000 for those aged 50 and older). The employer component includes matching contributions, non-elective contributions, and profit-sharing contributions. Via Investopedia

401(k) resources

This 401(k) calculator can help you figure out how much you should be saving
The 401(k) fee analyzer can show you how the investment fees in your plan stack up to others
The NerdWallet IRA vs. 401(k) guide can help you maximize your retirement savings dollars in both types of accounts at once

Make it Easy to Save
Make your 401(k) contributions automatically. You can even set up your plan to raise your level of saving each year. The more automated your financial plan is – the more likely you are to have a substantial nest egg when you get ready to retire! Check out this list of investing and saving hacks.