My Employer Doesn’t Offer a 401(k). Should I Care?

many Americans do n’t have access to 401 ( k ) plans, a bunch of which are freelance or younger workers. interim, others work for smaller companies without established benefit packages. If your company doesn ’ metric ton offer a 401 ( thousand ), you still have options, such as opening an individual retirement history ( IRA ) at another fiscal mental hospital .

Key Takeaways

  • If your company doesn’t offer a 401(k), you still can save for the future.
  • Individual retirement accounts (traditional and Roth IRAs) let you put away up to $6,000 a year for retirement purposes.
  • Your options may include encouraging the company bosses to adopt a retirement plan.

The Role of a 401 ( k )

Like many defined-contribution retirement plans, the 401 ( kilobyte ) plan takes its name from a planning in the Internal Revenue Code ( IRC ). department 401 ( kilobyte ) of the IRC was enacted in 1978 to give a tax break to working civilians who deferred income for retirement .

The government never envisioned section 401 ( kilobyte ) transforming the means employers and employees handled retirement investments. Those innovations came two years late when adviser Ted Benna created the first gear true 401 ( k ) design with the Johnson Companies .

Benna ‘s design has been copied and modified always since. As of June 30, 2021 ( the most holocene data available ), 401 ( kelvin ) plans declare $ 7.3 trillion in assets making up closely 20 % of the $ 37.2 trillion in U.S. retirement assets of any type .

today, employees can choose to defer income through automatic deductions from paychecks into employer-sponsored 401 ( kilobyte ) plans. Deferred money is left tax-exempt and can be directed to any investments listed in the plan, most of which are common funds .

postpone funds must be left in defined-contribution plans until an employee reaches age 59½ unless special provisions apply ; if not, the funds are subject to early secession penalties .

The reality

Despite the myriad restrictions—and the fact that most 401 ( thousand ) plans offer reasonably limited investment choices—many workers heavy trust on their 401 ( potassium ) investments for retirement. Most private american workers plainly expect their employers to offer plans, and many retirement planning guides seem to take it for granted that 401 ( kilobyte ) s will play leading roles for workers .

The world is quite different : merely 60 % of american workers have access to employer-sponsored defined contribution plans, according to a March 2019 survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( BLS ), and alone 43 % were active agent participants .

Those numbers are actually a little deceive ; access rates climb to 73 % and engagement rates jump to 57 % for full-time workers. The figures are even higher when you exclude nonionized department of labor, where workers have other jointly bargained benefits available. still, plenty of Americans do n’t have access to a 401 ( kilobyte ) plan and need to find early ways to save for retirement .

Why Your employer Does n’t Offer a 401 ( kilobyte )

The most coarse reason an employer does n’t offer a 401 ( kilobyte ) is that most of their jobs are entry-level or half-time. The average actor in these positions is either very new or living paycheck to paycheck, so saving for retirement is unmanageable ; most would pick getting more money upfront alternatively of a retirement plan anyhow .

There are other reasons why your employer might not offer a design. An employer might not have the experience or time to create an individually designed plan or have a go-to fiscal or trust institution. In these cases, batch of employers make the decision not to offer benefits rather than outgo time and money chasing a good patronize .

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Report

In a 2018 article titled “ The benefits of working for a little business, ” the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( BLS ) reported that defined contribution plans, such as 401 ( kilobyte ) -style plans, were available to 47 % of workers in humble businesses while access to defined benefit plans, like pension plans, was lower at 7 %. ( The BLS defines little businesses as those with fewer than 50 workers. ) While small businesses offer a wide kind of benefits, retirement plan options broadly are n’t one of them .

Some companies used to offer 401 ( k ) plans but decided to drop them. This sometimes happens because a ship’s company is losing money and scrambling to reduce expenses. other times, it ‘s because newly management came in and is looking for a different option, or because workers are n’t participating in the plan and it ‘s no longer reasonable to keep it open .

note that for 2021, the 401 ( thousand ) contribution limit is $ 19,500 ( rising to $ 20,500 in 2022 ), with a $ 6,500 catch-up contribution for those 50 or older .

Alternatives to a 401 ( kelvin )

The most obvious surrogate for a 401 ( kilobyte ) is an individual retirement account ( IRA ). Since an IRA is n’t attached to an employer and can be opened by just about anyone, it ‘s credibly a full theme for every worker—with or without access to an employer plan—to lend to an IRA ( or, if potential, a Roth IRA ) .

however, there are limitations to an IRA. It ‘s very unlikely a worker can completely replace a 401 ( thousand ) with only an IRA. Most glare is the IRA ‘s contribution specify, which is a relatively measly $ 6,000 per year versus the 401 ( kilobyte ) specify of $ 19,500 in 2021 ( and $ 20,500 in 2021 ) .

Some employers offer meet contributions for their 401 ( k ) plans, which is basically release retirement money for the worker. No IRA can include this kind of matching contribution since the IRA is n’t tied to any employer. Given these kinds of limitations, workers should supplement their IRAs with early retirement strategies .

Depending on your employer, it ‘s possible to have other types of retirement plans. These include SEP IRAs, SIMPLE plans, or stock options .

Certificates of deposition ( CDs ) were once a very attractive savings vehicle, but years of low-interest rates have efficaciously crippled them as a unplayful option. There are other riskier or more expensive alternatives for tax-deferred retirement income, such as annuities or permanent life policy policies .

It ‘s constantly better to find tax-exempt or tax-deferred savings vehicles. Once these options have been exhausted, workers can besides turn to traditional investments : common funds, stocks, bonds, or rental property .

The Value of a 401 ( thousand )

A well-run 401 ( thousand ) can be a blessing to retirement savings, but workers can find enough of other ways to save money. It ‘s besides simplistic ( and just not true ) to say that any company offering a 401 ( kilobyte ) is thoroughly and every company without one is cheap. Lots of firms offer bad 401 ( thousand ) plans, barely like lots of firms offer other utilitarian benefits. You ‘re better off evaluating the total recompense package and asking yourself, “ What does my employer give me to make up for not having a 401 ( kilobyte ) ? ”

Imagine that your employer does n’t offer a 401 ( potassium ), but a compete firm does. Should you consider switching companies ? Your employer might offer higher starting salaries rather of retirement benefits, or possibly your party has stock options, a pension, or another form of option recompense .

freelance Options

If you ’ re freelance, you don ’ triiodothyronine have an employer to offer a 401 ( kilobyte ) to you. thus, you even have alternatives. even if you ’ re not freelance, you can open a traditional or Roth IRA. Nonetheless, freelance individuals have three key options—solo 401 ( k ), SEP IRA, and SIMPLE IRA .

solo 401 ( potassium )

A alone 401 ( k ) is like to an employer-sponsored 401 ( potassium ). however, you, as the freelance, act as both the employer and employee. Solo 401 ( k ) second offer greater control versus employer-sponsored 401 ( kelvin ) plans—and you can contribute into a traditional or Roth solo 401 ( kelvin ). You can besides contribute as both the employee and the employer .


A simplified employee pension ( SEP ) allows individuals to contribute pre-tax earnings. entirely an employee can contribute to an SEP IRA—not the employer. Eligibility includes being at least 21 years old, having worked for the company three of the last five years, and making $ 600 or more per class. With a SEP IRA, you must contribute the lapp share of income for other employees ( if you have them ) .


SIMPLE IRAs are available for small businesses—those with less than 100 employees. They ‘re less expensive than a 401 ( k ) to operate, but operate in much the lapp way. Employees can contribute pre-tax dollars, while employers can match contributions.

How Much Can an Employer Contribute to a SIMPLE IRA?

Employees can contribute $ 14,000 to a SIMPLE IRA per year— $ 17,000 if you ’ re 50 or older. note that employers must contribute one of the two—2 % of their employees ’ compensation as character of a nonelective contribution or a match contribution of up to 3 % of compensation.

What Does SEP IRA Stand for?

SEP IRA stands for simplified employee pension. It ’ mho think of to be a simplified method acting for employers to contribute toward their employees ‘ retirement. SEP IRA limits are $ 61,000 or 25 % of compensation—whichever is less.

Who Can Contribute to a SEP IRA?

The requirements for SEP IRA contributions include : being over 21 years old, having worked for the company in three of the last five years, and receiving at least $ 600 in recompense for the year.

The Bottom Line

The ultimate value of a 401 ( k ) is determined by two things : how good the 401 ( kelvin ) is run and whether there are other, more useful benefits. If you ‘re counting on each paycheck to just cover your know expenses, then chances are the 401 ( k ) is n’t a big deal however. If you ‘re getting great health or dental benefits rather, you ‘d probably quite take those benefits and handle retirement investing on your own. Always think in terms of what else you are getting and what your alternatives are .

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