What Is a 401k Plan?

Last Updated on 6th July 2022 by Jeffrey Camerda

A 401(k) is a tax-advantaged retirement savings plan that is provided by many American workplaces. 

A 401(k) participant agrees to have a portion of his or her salary deposited into an investment account each pay period. You may be able to get some or all of that money back from your employer. The employee has a variety of investment alternatives at their disposal, most often mutual funds.


  • 401(k) plans allow workers to set aside a portion of their salary toward a retirement account into which their employers may match their contributions.
  • Traditional 401(k)s and Roth 401(k)s vary principally in their tax treatment.
  • Taxes are levied on withdrawals from a standard 401(k) because contributions are “pre-tax,” which lowers the amount of taxable income.
  • After-tax income is used to fund Roth 401(k) contributions, there is no tax deduction during the year of the contribution. However, withdrawals are not taxed.
  • According to the CARES Act, persons who have been afflicted by the COVID-19 epidemic will be exempt from RMDs until 2020.

What is a 401(k) Plan?

An effort was made to encourage Americans to save for retirement via the 401(k). Tax savings is one of the advantages they provide.

Tax benefits vary from one choice to the next. Check them out;

Traditional 401(k) (k)

Employee contributions to a traditional 401(k) are deducted from gross income, which means they are taken directly from an employee’s paycheck before taxes are deducted. Taxpayers benefit from this since their taxable income is lowered by how much they contributed to their employer’s retirement plan throughout the year. Taxes are not required until the employee withdraws the money from the plan.

Roth 401k (k)

When it comes to a Roth 401(k), contributions are deducted from an employee’s post-tax income, which means that they are taken out of their paychecks, post-tax. Consequently, the donation is not eligible for a tax credit the year it is made. No further taxes are owed on the employee’s contribution or the investment profits when the money is taken in retirement.

But not all companies have the option of a Roth account. Depending on the yearly contribution restrictions on their tax-deductible contributions, an employee may choose between the Roth and a traditional IRA if it is available to them.

A 401(k) Plan Contribution

401(k) is a defined contribution plan. The Internal Revenue Service has established financial restrictions for contributions from both the employee and the employer to the account (IRS).

A defined-contribution plan, also called defined-benefit plan by the Internal Revenue Service, is an alternative to the conventional pension. A pension is an agreement between a company and an employee to provide a certain amount of money for life in retirement.

401(k) plans have been increasingly widespread in recent decades, while conventional pensions have become less frequent, as businesses move the burden and risk of saving for retirement to their workers.

With their 401(k), employees are also responsible for selecting the exact assets from a list provided by the company. In order to limit the risk of investment losses as the employee gets closer to retirement, these options often comprise a variety of stock and bond mutual funds and target-date funds.

GICs issued by insurance firms may also be included, as well as the employer’s own stock.

Contribution Limits

Inflation, a measure of growing costs in an economy, affects the maximum amount that an individual or company may contribute to a 401(k).

Employee contributions will be capped at $19,500 in 2021 and $20,500 in 2022 for those under the age of 50. However, persons over the age of 50 will be able to contribute $6,500 in catch-up contributions in 2021 and 2022.

An employee’s non-deductible after-tax contributions to their typical 401(k) plan, plus the employer’s contribution, equals the total amount contributed by both the employee and the employer for the year.


  • Employer and employee contributions are limited at $58,000 for employees under the age of 50, or 100 percent of their earnings, whichever is lesser.
  • The maximum amount that may be deducted is $64,500 if the catch-up payment for those 50 and older is included.


  • Employee-employer contributions cannot exceed $61,000 per year for employees under the age of 50.
  • The $67,500 limit includes the catch-up payment for persons over the age of 50.

Employers Matching

Various formulae are used by employers that match their employees’ contributions. It’s possible that your company may give you 50 cents for every dollar that you put in.

In order to get the full company match, financial advisers often advise their clients to make at least the minimum 401(k) contribution.

Maintaining a Traditional and Roth 401(k) Plan

Employees may contribute to both a standard 401(k) and a Roth 401(k) if their company provides both kinds of plans.

Contributions to both kinds of accounts, however, can’t exceed the annual contribution cap for one of the accounts (such as $19,500 for individuals under 50 in 2021 or $20,500 in 2022).

To avoid taxation upon withdrawal, employer contributions may only be made to a standard 401(k) plan and cannot be made to a Roth.

401(k) Plan Withdrawals

It is impossible to get money out of a 401(k) without paying taxes on the amount taken out.

Dan Stewart, CFA®, president of Revere Asset Management Inc. in Dallas, adds, “Make sure that you still save enough on the outside for emergencies and needs you may have before retirement”. To avoid a situation where you cannot access all of your money, do not deposit all of your savings in your 401(k) plan.

401(k) contributions are tax-deferred for traditional 401(k)s and tax-free for Roth 401(k)s. That which has never been taxed is taxed as regular income when it is withdrawn from a typical 401(k). Because they have previously paid taxes on the money they contributed to their plan, Roth account holders are exempt from paying taxes when they take money out of the plan.

You must be at least age 59½ or fulfill other requirements set down by the IRS, such as being completely and permanently incapacitated, before you may begin taking withdrawals from your 401(k).

A 10% early-distribution tax on top of any other taxes they owe is a common penalty.

Employees may borrow against their 401(k) plan contributions in several cases. In essence, the employee is taking a loan from himself or herself. A 401(k) loan may be taken out, but if you quit your employment before the loan is repaid, you’ll have to pay it back in full or suffer the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

Jeffrey Camerda

Dr. Jeffery Camerda, PhD, is a financial planner who specializes in wealth management and retirement planning. With a PhD in Economics and Financial Planning, Jeffery represents the highest level of financial planning expertise and achievement in the USA In addition to preparing you for a career in financial planning, a PhD in economics and finance also prepares you for academic pursuits, such as becoming a university professor in teaching or doing research. Here at the Wealth Builder, our financial advisory company was founded in 2007 and services all across the USA with over 16 years of expertise. In order to provide the finest advice and services, we pay close attention to the specific financial circumstances and requirements of each client. In order to guarantee that our clients don't get a sales pitch for insurance or investments, as well as a lack of conflict of interest from a prospective commission-bearing corporations, Jeffery focuses on fee-based services. Financial planning for wealth managers, financial well-being workshops, and personal financial planning packages are all part of the company's offering. Jeffrey Camarda, PhD, CFA, EA is also the founder of the Family Wealth Education Institute, is a member of the Financial Planning Association and serves as the Chairman of Camarda Wealth Advisory Group

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