If you have a 401(k) at work and your employer matches contributions, you should contribute enough to earn those matching funds — don’t pass up on free money.
But once you’ve earned your match, continuing to put additional money in your 401(k) may not be the right move. Here are three reasons you should consider other options beyond this popular retirement account.
1. HSAs can provide better tax breaks
After earning your employer match, you can turn your focus to a health savings account (HSA) instead of a 401(k). You’re eligible for this type of account if you have a qualifying high-deductible health plan.
Putting money into your HSA can be a much better option than adding to a 401(k), because an HSA offers better tax breaks. With a traditional 401(k), you get to contribute to your account with pre-tax dollars. But as a senior, you have to pay taxes on your withdrawals. With an HSA, contributions are tax-free, and withdrawals are also tax-free as long as you use the money for qualifying medical care.
Since healthcare is likely to be one of your largest expenses as a senior, saving in an HSA allows you to cover relevant bills with money that you got a tax break for on both ends. And even if you don’t end up using your HSA money for healthcare, you get to withdraw from this account for any purpose after 65 and only pay taxes at your ordinary rate — just as you would with a 401(k).
If you’re eligible for an HSA, making contributions to it before putting extra money into your 401(k) is a no-brainer to max out your tax breaks. Just be aware that the maximum HSA contribution in 2022 is $3,650 if you have self-only coverage and $7,300 for family coverage, well below the limits for a 401(k). You can invest up to $20,500 in a 401(k), with an even higher cap of $27,000 for those 50 and older who are eligible for catch-up contributions. So if you’re saving aggressively, you may run into the HSA cap and need to plan accordingly.
2. IRAs can provide better investment options
After maxing out your employer match (and potentially your HSA), you should also think seriously about putting money into an IRA. That’s because IRAs can be opened with any financial institution, and you get to decide for yourself instead of being stuck with whatever 401(k) plan your employer has picked.
Typically, a 401(k) has a limited pool of investment options. But since you have the freedom to decide where to open your IRA, there are few limits to what you can invest in. If you want to buy individual stocks or even cryptocurrencies in your IRA, you can. So why not put money into an account that gives you the same tax breaks as a 401(k) but offers much more control over what you do with your investing dollars?
Again, an IRA does face lower contribution limits with a maximum of $6,000 in 2022, plus an additional $1,000 for qualifying catch-up contributions.
3. 401(k) accounts may come with high fees
Finally, the last reason to consider limiting your 401(k) contributions is because these accounts can often be expensive. Your 401(k) administrator most likely charges a fee, and some or many of the investment options in your 401(k) may have higher expense ratios than other alternatives you could access through an IRA.
This isn’t the case in every scenario, but if you can gain access to cheaper investments outside of your 401(k) in another type of tax-advantaged retirement account, you should do so to keep your investing costs down.
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