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In simplified terms, an IRA (Individual Retirement Arrangement) and a 401(k)- 403(b) and 457(b) are all Defined Contribution retirement savings programs, but they have some key differences:
Employer Plans 401(k), 403(b) & 457(b) vs. Individual: Employer Plans are typically offered by employers to their employees, while an IRA is an individual retirement Arrangements that you can open on your own.
Contribution Limits: The contribution limits for Employer Plans are generally higher than those for an IRA. In 2023, the maximum annual contribution for a 401(k) is $22,500, whereas for an IRA, it is $6,000 (or $7,000 if you're 50 years or older).
Employer401(k) Matching: With a, your employer may offer a matching contribution, which means they will match a portion of your contributions. This is essentially free money and can significantly boost your retirement savings. IRAs do not have employer matching.
Investment Options: Employer Plans often have a limited selection of investment options chosen by the employer, such as mutual funds. IRAs, on the other hand, offer a broader range of investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and more.
Portability: When you change jobs, you can usually take your Employer Plans with you, but you may need to roll it over into an IRA or another employer's plan. IRAs, on the other hand, are not tied to any specific employer and can be kept throughout your career, providing more flexibility.
Tax Treatment: Both Employer Plans and traditional IRAs offer tax-deferred contributions, meaning the money you contribute is deducted from your taxable income in the year of contribution, reducing your current tax liability. However, when you withdraw money in retirement, both the contributions and earnings are subject to income tax. Roth IRAs, on the other hand, offer tax-free withdrawals in retirement, as contributions are made with after-tax dollars.
These are simplified explanations, and there may be additional rules and nuances associated with both types of retirement accounts. It's important to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to fully understand the specifics and determine which option is best suited for your individual circumstances.