IRA vs. 401k

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Traditional IRA vs. 401(k): What’s the Difference?

Key Differences Between Traditional IRA and 401(k)

  • Contribution Limits: For 2024, Traditional IRA contributions are capped at $7,000 ($8,000 if you’re 50 or older). In contrast, 401(k) plans have a higher limit of $23,000 ($30,500 if you’re 50 or older).
  • Tax Treatment: Contributions to both Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s are tax-deductible, reducing your taxable income. However, the deductibility of IRA contributions may be limited if you or your spouse are covered by a retirement plan at work and fall within certain income brackets.
  • Employer Match: A key advantage of 401(k)s is the potential employer match, where employers match your contributions up to a certain percentage. Traditional IRAs don’t offer this feature.
  • Investment Options: 401(k) plans usually have a limited selection of investment options chosen by the employer, whereas Traditional IRAs offer a wider range of investment choices.
  • Loan Options: Some 401(k) plans allow you to take loans against your savings, a feature not available with Traditional IRAs.
  • Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): Both accounts require RMDs starting at age 73, but if you’re still working and don’t own more than 5% of the business you’re employed by, you can delay RMDs from your current employer’s 401(k).
Ira Vs. 401K

Comparison Table

FeatureTraditional IRA401(k)
Contribution Limit (2024)$7,000 ($8,000 if 50 or older)$23,000 ($30,500 if 50 or older)
Tax DeductibilityYes (with income limits)Yes
Employer MatchNoneOften available
Investment ChoicesBroadLimited
Loan OptionsNot availableOften available
RMD Age7373 (can be delayed)


Understanding the differences between Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s is crucial for effective retirement planning. While IRAs offer more investment flexibility and are great for independent savers, 401(k)s provide higher contribution limits and potential employer matches. Consider your financial situation, retirement goals, and the specific features of each plan when deciding. Contact us today for a free quote.

401K Vs Ira

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Questions From Our Readers

Can I have both an IRA and a 401k?

Yes, you can have both an IRA and a 401k. However, you will still be subject to contribution limits for both plans.

Is a 401k or an IRA better for retirement?

The answer to this question will depend on your financial situation and goals. Consider the factors discussed in the “Choosing the Right Plan for You” section to determine the best plan.

Can I withdraw money from my 401k before age 59 1/2 without penalty?

In most cases, you cannot withdraw money from your 401k before age 59 1/2 without facing penalties and taxes. However, some exceptions exist, such as withdrawals for certain medical expenses or financial hardships.

How does the tax deduction for IRA contributions compare to 401k contributions?

IRA and 401k contributions offer tax deductions, but the maximum contribution limit and eligibility criteria differ. 401k contributions can generally be higher and have employer matching options.

What are the tax benefits of contributing to an IRA versus a 401k?

Contributing to an IRA or 401k offers tax benefits such as reducing taxable income, tax-deferred growth, and potentially lowering tax brackets. Still, the specifics vary based on contribution limits and eligibility.

How does the employer match differ between an IRA and a 401k?

Employers can only match contributions for 401k plans, not IRAs. The matching amount and eligibility criteria for a 401k match vary by employer.

How do the annual contribution limits for IRAs and 401ks affect retirement savings?

Annual contribution limits affect retirement savings by capping the amount of money that can be saved in a tax-advantaged account, potentially limiting the growth of retirement funds. 401k limits are generally higher.

How do income limits affect the eligibility to contribute to an IRA or a 401k?

Income limits affect eligibility to contribute to certain types of IRAs and Roth IRAs, while 401k eligibility is determined by the employer’s plan rules and not income limits.

Which one is more guaranteed 401k or IRA?

Neither a 401k nor an IRA offers guaranteed returns as both are subject to market risks. The value of investments in these accounts can fluctuate based on the performance of the chosen investments, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. However, Fixed and fixed-indexed IRA annuities can be guaranteed not to lose money.

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Shawn Plummer is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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