When most people think of a retirement savings account, they think of the gold standard: the 401(k), the most common workplace retirement account. But even if you don't have a 401(k)—and 57% of working households, in fact, don't have one through a current employer—you still have access to other tax-deferred plans.
At a job with the government, a nonprofit, or a school, you might have a Thrift Savings Plan, 403(b), or 457. When you’re self-employed, your options include a SEP-IRA and the increasingly popular solo 401(k), offered at a low cost by many brokerages and fund groups.
Despite the variations among these and other plans, most share basic qualities that can help you jump-start—and turbocharge—your retirement. You pay no taxes on the earnings you contribute. Money is automatically deposited into your account, making the process effortless. You have a menu of diversified funds in which you can invest. Your boss can match a portion of what you put in, and your plan may regularly raise your contributions slowly and steadily, easing you toward a high savings rate.
Since the number of different retirement plans can be a little off-putting at first, Money has put together a chart to cut down on the confusion and help you figure out which plan is most likely to be offered to you at work, and which is most appropriate for your particular situation. The retirement plan guide (see below) groups plans by the type of employer that might offer it, or whether it's designed for individuals to open up on their own. Each entry contains information about eligibility, contribution limits, employer matches, and investment options.
To learn how to minimize these plans’ drawbacks and maximize their advantages, check out Money's retirement-planning series starting with These Low-Cost Strategies Can Save Your Retirement.
|Retirement Plans at Glance |
Even if your workplace doesn't offer a 401(k), the most common type of retirement account, you still have plenty of opportunities to save for retirement while deferring your taxes. Here's a quick guide to the universe of plans.
|PLAN||WHO'S ELIGIBLE||MAXIMUM ANNUAL CONTRIBUTION||EMPLOYER MATCH?||ANNUAL CATCH-UP STARTING |
AT AGE 50
|USUAL INVESTMENT OPTIONS|
|Business, Government, Nonprofit||401(k)||Private company employees||$18,000||Usually 1% to 6% of pay||$6,000||Mutual funds (19 on average)|
|403(b)||Employees at nonprofits and state and local governments||$18,000||Often; typically 3% to 5% of pay||$6,000 (more for some longtime employees)||Funds and annuities (29 on average)|
|457||Some government and nonprofit workers||$18,000||Rarely||$6,000 (sometimes more for employees near retirement)||Menu of mutual funds|
|Thrift Savings Plan||Federal government employees, including the military||$18,000||5% for those in the Federal Employees Retirement System||$6,000||10 funds, including five target-date funds|
|Small Business||SEP-IRA||Small-business employers and employees||25% of salary, up to $53,000 (same for all personnel)||All contributions come from employer||None, but contributions are permitted after age 70½||All funds offered where account is held|
|Simple IRA||Small-business employers and employees||$12,500||3% match (or 2% employer contribution to all employees)||$3,000; contributions are also permitted after age 70½||Menu of funds|
|Solo 401(k)||Sole proprietors and their spouses||25% of compensation plus $18,000, up to $53,000||No||$6,000||All funds offered where account is held|
|Individual||Roth IRA||All earners making less than income phaseouts||$5,500||No||$1,000||All funds offered where account is held|
|Traditional IRA||All earners||$5,500||No||$1,000||All funds offered where account is held|