Should I contribute to my 401(k) or a Roth IRA?August 16, 2012: 6:30 AM ET
Should I put money in my 401(k), despite having no employer match and fund expenses between 1.5% and 2.0%? Or am I better off making a contribution to my Roth IRA? — Carlos P.
Your 401(k) is a powerful savings tool, says Brent Beesley, director of wealth management at Austin, Tex.-based Eltekon Financial. Here's why: You can contribute a lot to a 401(k), which allows workers to save up to $17,000 a year, or $22,500 a year if you're 50 or older. You can contribute a maximum of just $5,000 a year to your Roth IRA, or $6,000 if you're 50 or older.
That being said, your company's plan has some drawbacks: First, there's no employer match. That's not uncommon — many companies don't match employee contributions — but it reduces the incentive to sock money away in these plans. Another big problem: Your plan's relatively high expenses. MONEY recently tallied up the average investment and administrative fees for 401(k) plans and reported that those expenses run about 0.36% for large plans, and 1.4% for the smallest plans. In short, you may be paying too high a price for your 401(k) plan.
One strategy: First max out your Roth contribution, and then contribute whatever you can to your 401(k). You'll likely pay less in fees and have more investment choices in your Roth IRA, but you'll also benefit from the 401(k)'s higher contribution limit. What's more, you'll have a lot of flexibility when and if you switch jobs, including rolling those 401(k) savings into an IRA or into a new workplace plan. "If you are a prodigious saver and have the ability to do this," Beesley says, "you get the best of both worlds."
— Marc Mewshaw
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