3 Reasons to Stop Funding Your 401(k) ASAP | personal-finance

(Maurie Backman)

Many workers bemoan the fact that they don’t have access to a 401(k) through their jobs. And the reality is that 401(k) plans do have their benefits.

One big perk is that with a 401(k), you get a pretty generous annual contribution limit that can change from year to year. Right now, that limit sits at $20,500 for workers under 50 and $27,000 for those 50 and over.

But while it’s a great thing to keep funding a 401(k) plan if that account is serving your needs, it’s another thing to continue pumping money into an account you’re not happy with. Here are just a few reasons why you may want to pull the plug on 401(k) contributions — and save your money elsewhere.

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1. You don’t get an employer match

Many employers that sponsor 401(k)s also match worker contributions to some degree. But if your company doesn’t offer that benefit, then there’s really no need to keep funding that account since you’re not getting any free money out of the deal.

2. You don’t like your investment choices

One major downside to saving in a 401(k) is being limited to a set of different funds you can invest in. Generally, your plan will include a mix of target date funds, index funds, and actively managed mutual funds. But either way, employer-sponsored 401(k) plans generally do not let savers put their money into individual stocks. And that means you might struggle to build a retirement portfolio you’re content with.

3. You’re tired of paying hefty administrative fees

There are two types of fees you might pay when you save in a 401(k). The first is investment fees, which you can help limit by loading up on low-cost index funds. But the second type of fee, administrative fees, may be out of your control. And they may be excessive. If that’s the case, you’re more than justified in finding a savings alternative that won’t charge so much to house your money.

Where to put your savings instead

If your 401(k) plan isn’t working for you, you should stop funding it. It’s that simple. But that doesn’t mean you should just stop saving for retirement. You’ll need income outside of Social Security to pay your bills once you stop working, and so it’s important to keep socking money away for the future, albeit in a different place.

One option you can look at is an IRA. The upside of going this route is getting a lot more options for investing your money. You can load up on individual stocks if you’re comfortable hand-picking them, for example. Plus, with an IRA, your fees might be lower.

Another option to look at is an HSA, or health savings account. The beauty of HSAs is that they’re triple tax-advantaged, which means they offer more benefits than IRAs or 401(k)s. HSA contributions go in tax-free, investment gains are tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free as long as they’re used for medical expenses — which you’re apt to have a lot of during retirement.

Better yet, once you turn 65, you can take an HSA withdrawal for non-medical purposes and avoid being penalized. In that scenario, taxes on withdrawals do apply. But that’s no different than the taxes you’d end up paying on distributions from a traditional 401(k) or IRA.

There’s no sense in saving for retirement in a plan you aren’t happy with. If you’re tired of your 401(k), ditch it and put your money somewhere else. The only exception is if you do get a match from your employer. In that case, save what you need to max out that match, but then put the rest of your savings in another account that works better for you.

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