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Wealth Management: ARE YOU MISSNG OUT ON FREE MONEY?

How participating in your company’s retirement plan can help you more quickly build wealth

By Kevin O. Stinnett. CLU, CLTC, LUTCF

To participate or not to participate in your employer’s retirement? Is that really a question you should be asking regarding your financial future?

Planning your retirement doesn’t have to be complicated. If your employer has an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you really need to think about participating.

Understanding the key features of employer-sponsored retirement plans is crucial for making informed decisions about your financial future.

Here are some key features that many of these plans share:

Contributions:

Employees can typically contribute a portion of their pretax income to the retirement plan, often through payroll deductions.
Contribution limits may vary depending on the type of plan and are subject to annual IRS limits.

Employer Matching Contributions:

Many employers offer matching contributions, where they match a percentage of the employee’s contributions up to a certain limit. Employer matches are essentially free money and can significantly boost retirement savings.

Investment Options:

Most employer-sponsored plans offer a range of investment options, such as mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stocks, bonds, and target-date funds.
Employees can choose how to allocate their contributions among these investment options, based on their risk tolerance and retirement goals.

Tax Advantages:

Contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans are typically made on a pretax basis, meaning they reduce taxable income in the current year.
Investment earnings within the plan grow tax-deferred, meaning you won’t pay taxes on them until you make withdrawals in retirement.

Some plans may also offer Roth options, where contributions are made with after-tax dollars, but withdrawals in retirement are tax-free.

Vesting:

Vesting refers to the process by which employees become entitled to employer contributions over time.
Some plans have immediate vesting, meaning employees are immediately entitled to both their contributions and any employer contributions.
Other plans may have a vesting schedule, where employees become gradually vested in employer contributions over a certain number of years of service.

Portability:

Many employer-sponsored retirement plans offer portability, allowing employees to take their retirement savings with them when they leave the company.
Options for portability may include leaving the funds in the current plan, rolling them over into a new employer’s plan, rolling them into an IRA, or cashing out (subject to taxes and penalties).

Plan Administration and Fees:

Employers are responsible for administering the retirement plan and may contract with financial institutions to manage investments and handle administrative tasks.
Employees should be aware of any fees associated with the plan, including investment management fees, administrative fees, and any fees for taking loans or withdrawals.

Understanding these key features will help you make informed decisions about participating in your employer’s retirement plan and maximizing your savings for retirement. It’s also essential to regularly review your plan and make adjustments as needed to stay on track toward your retirement goals. Consulting with a financial planner or tax advisor can provide additional guidance tailored to your individual circumstances.

Kevin O. Stinnett. CLU, CLTC, LUTCF is the owner and president of Lexington Insurance Agency in Lexington, Ky.