401K Plans

401K Plans

When you are searching for a new job, one of the things you should be looking for in a company is whether or not they offer a 401K plan. Why? Because a 401K is one of the best ways to save for retirement, guaranteed. It is a qualified plan established by an employer that allows employees to make salary deferral contributions on a post, or pre-tax basis. Many employers even match an employee’s contribution up to certain value, making it all the more easier to save for the future. It’s true that retirement plans may be the furthest thing from your mind, but the bottom line is that if you start to invest in a 401K early, you could end up with two million or more dollars in the bank by the time you retire. Now do I have your attention?

So how does it all work?

Usually you can invest up to 15 percent of your salary into a 401K plan every month, but keep in mind that the employer that set up the program does have a right to limit the amount as they see fit. The IRS also limits your contribution as well. For the 2010 tax year, the limit was $16,500 for those under 50, and $22,000 for those over 50.

A 401K is one of the most painless ways to save for retirement. The money is put away before you even see it, so you won’t be tempted to spend it on needless things beforehand, and like I mentioned before, your employer may even match a portion of your contribution You know what that means, right? Free money.

What happens to your money?

When you invest in a 401K plan, a third party administrator whom invests it in bonds, mutual funds, and money market accounts is the one who handles all the details. All you have to do is pick from a list of investment vehicles that detail the level of risk you money is at. It may sound complicated, but it’s not, and that’s what makes 401K investing so safe. Even if the company you are working for goes bankrupt, you are protected. Thanks to the Employment Retirement Income Security Act passed in 1974, your funds are held in custodial accounts in order to keep your money safe in the event that something happens to your employer. It also sets requirements that your employer must follow, such as sending you regular account statements, providing easy access to your account, and making it easy and fair for everyone to keep track of what is happening to their own money.

What if you switch jobs?

Moving from one company that offers a 401K plan that you have been paying into to another is easy, as long as you take precautions when moving your money. You can roll the money already invested into another 401K plan, as long as you do not write the check out to yourself. It will be just like cashing out early, and if you do so before you are 59.5 years of age, you’ll end up paying taxes on all the money you have put into the 401K, as well as a 10 percent penalty to the IRS. In order to roll the funds over successfully from one 401K plan to another, you have to make the check out to do directly into the new account. In other words, it has to be written to the new company that you are moving your 401K to. Got it? Good. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make, and usually they end up paying for it.

The Future

There’s really no reason not to invest in your companies 401K plan. By doing so now, you’ll be saving yourself enough money to retire on in the future. It’s safe, reliable, and you don’t even notice the money missing from your paycheck after a while. It’s easy to keep track of thanks to employer statements, and really, you’d be a fool not to take advantage of it. Especially when you’re young. Investing early means you’re getting a head start on the future, when you’ll need money the most. Retirement isn’t cheap, and you’ll need it to keep up with things like mortgage payments and bills. Not only that, but hey, if you invest early and end up with two million or more by the time you retire, you can reward yourself of all those years of hard work by taking a truly memorable vacation.