Best Retirement Plan For Me – It’s important to know the difference between each retirement plan and what is actually best for you, because each individual has a set of different circumstances, although the overall goal is retirement.
A Traditional IRA is offered directly from investment houses. In order to open a Traditional IRA for yourself, you have to open an account with an investment house. Some well-known investment houses that I use (or at least somewhat recommend) include Fidelity and Vanguard.
A Roth IRA is offered in the same way as a Traditional IRA. You have to set up your account yourself with an investment house (like Fidelity or Vanguard).
A 401(k)/403(b) is offered through your employer. Your employer sets up an arrangement with an investment house to provide individual 401(k)/403(b) accounts to their employees. Rather than having a choice of investment houses, you are stuck with using whatever investment house your employer provides.
The IRAs have the advantage here. Because you have the freedom to choose which investing house to use and can move from investing house to investing house, these companies have good reason to offer you strong investment options.
With a 401(k)/403(b), you’re locked into whatever investment house your employer negotiates with, which may or may not provide you with the best investment options.
This doesn’t mean that the investment choices in a 401(k)/403(b) are terrible; usually, it just means that the fees are a bit higher than they would be with your own IRA.
You are eligible for a Traditional IRA if you are under the age of 70 1/2. You must also earn some sort of income from work or be married to someone who earns income from work.
Finding out which one is best depends strongly on what you think tax rates will do in the future. If you expect them to stay the same or go down, then the Traditional IRA and the 401(k)/403(b) route is better. If you expect them to go up, then the Roth IRA is better. I expect them to go up, so I give the Roth IRA the nod here.
At this point, a 401(k)/403(b) plan looks like the worst option, but there is one huge factor in that plan’s favor. With many employers, the employer will offer matching contributions. For example, one employer that I know of offers one-to-one matching of every dollar an employee contributes to their 401(k)/403(b) up to 6% of the employee’s pay.
So, if the employee makes $50,000 per year and contributes 6% of that – which would be $3,000 per year – the employer would match that, giving that employee a total of $6,000 invested each year.
This blows away the benefits offered by other plans. The strength of this kind of multiplying of retirement funds is the best tool you have available to you – if your employer offers it.