Roth IRA Vs. 401(k): Differences, Pros & Cons

Table of Сontents

  1. Difference Between a Roth IRA and a 401(k)
  2. 401(k)s
  3. Roth IRAs
  4. Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA vs. Roth 401(k) vs. 401(k)
  5. Tips When Choosing How To Invest for Retirement
  6. Bottom Line

A 401(k) and a Roth IRA are frequently used by investors to save for retirement. But what distinguishes a Roth IRA from a 401(k)? What you should know is as follows.

Difference Between a Roth IRA and a 401(k)

A Roth IRA and a 401(k) vary primarily in that an investor establishes an individual retirement account (IRA) whereas an employer sponsors a 401(k) on behalf of its workers. There may also be variations in tax treatment, withdrawal policies, and contribution caps.

The key distinctions between a Roth IRA and 401(k) are as follows:


Roth IRA


Established By


Employer, for the benefit of employees.

Income Limits

2022 income limits for modified AGI married filing jointly are $214,000 and $144,000 for single filers.

No income limit to make contributions.

Max Contributions

$6,000 for 2022, plus a “catch-up” contribution of $1,000 for individuals age 50 or over.

$20,500 for 2022, plus a “catch-up” contribution of $6,500 for employees age 50 or over.

RMDs: Required Minimum Distributions

No requirement to start taking distributions while the owner is alive.

Distributions must begin no later than age 72 unless still working and not a 5% owner.

Employer Contributions

No matching or other employer contributions.

The employer may make matching or other contributions.

Investment Choices

No limitations, depending upon brokerage.

Typically limited to specific mutual funds selected by an investment committee.


Loans are not offered.

Some plans offer loans, usually for a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of 50% vested balance.

Notably, in addition to the customary pre-tax contributions, many 401(k) plans now accept Roth after-tax contributions. If a 401(k) plan, for instance, permits Roth-designated contributions and an employee elects to make this kind of elective deferral, the contributions will be taxed similarly to Roth IRAs, with after-tax contributions and tax-free withdrawals after satisfying certain IRS requirements. In contrast to the Roth IRA, the Roth 401(k) contribution limits are larger (up to $27,000 including catch-up contributions, in 2022).


A 401(k) is a defined-contribution retirement savings plan that is sponsored by the employer. High contribution limits, automated payroll deductions, and the opportunity for employer-matching contributions are just a few of the distinctive characteristics and advantages of 401(k) plans.

  • Contributing to a 401(k): An individual may select a contribution amount, often expressed as a percentage of gross earnings, if they satisfy the basic eligibility requirements of a 401(k) plan. Payroll deductions that are automated can be used to make contributions.
  • Investment Options: A member may select investments, which are generally a choice of 8–12 mutual funds, after selecting their contribution amount. The majority of 401(k) plans only provide a limited number of mutual funds as additional investing possibilities.
  • Taxes: Traditional 401(k) contributions are made before taxes are deducted. Retirement distributions are subject to federal income tax at the individual’s marginal rate. Where relevant, state income taxes are also due. If available, Roth 401(k) contributions are made after tax. Every sort of donation grows tax-free.
  • Limitations: Contributions to a 401(k) are not subject to any income restrictions. Contributions, however, are capped at $20,500 per year, with an extra $6,500 for anyone over 50.
  • Early Withdrawals: Although hardship withdrawals from a 401(k) may be permitted, there is typically a 10% early withdrawal penalty for withdrawals taken before the age of 59 1/2.
  • Employer Matching: Employers are allowed to make matching contributions, which often follow a formula, such as 50% of employee deferrals, but not more than 3% of employee income. For instance, the employee would need to contribute 6% of their earnings to obtain the full company match in this scenario.
  • Fees: Depending on the size of the company, the amount of the plan’s assets, and the number of participants, 401(k) plans normally levy fees that can vary from 0.5 percent to 2.0 percent. These costs may be passed along to the plan trust, which would make them less obvious to 401(k) participants.


  • Convenience: Periodically, 401(k) payments are paid automatically through payroll.
  • Transferability: If eligible, a member in a 401(k) plan may opt to transfer their account balance after leaving their job into an IRA or, if applicable, to the 401(k) plan of their new employer, without incurring any tax penalties.
  • Tax advantages: Traditional pre-tax donations minimize taxable income while allowing accounts to grow tax-free.
  • Dollar-cost averaging: Contributions are routinely invested, which helps bring down the average cost and market risk of investments over time.
  • Compound interest:401(k) accounts “compound” interest, dividends, and capital gains from investments over time, allowing them to grow more quickly than traditional bank accounts.
  • High contribution limits: For 2022, the maximum yearly contribution is $20,500. In contrast, in 2022 the annual maximum IRA contribution will be $6,500.
  • Shelter from creditors: 401(k) funds are shielded from creditors’ demands by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 or ERISA.
  • Possibility of employer contributions: In addition to the account owner’s contributions, employers may also provide matching contributions, which function similarly to bonuses.
  • Hardship withdrawals and loans: A 401(k) member may take a hardship withdrawal from their account balance if certain qualifying circumstances are met. Certain 401(k) plans to provide loans.


  • Limited investment selection: Participants in 401(k) plans often have just a limited An individual retirement account (IRA) that is funded using post-tax money is known as a Roth IRA. Roth IRA withdrawals are typically tax-free if made at or after the age of 59 1/2, and investments grow tax-free while kept in the account. This is distinct from a standard IRA, which is funded with after-tax money and has income-taxed withdrawals.


  • Contributing to a Roth: Roth IRA contributions are made after-tax by the individual account owner at their preferred brokerage company.
  • Taxes: Withdrawals made at or after the age of 59 1/2 are typically tax-free and the money kept increases tax-free.
  • Limitations: In 2022, there are income restrictions for Roth IRAs of $214,000 for married couples filing jointly and $144,000 for single taxpayers.
  • Early Withdrawals: The IRS will typically impose a 10% early withdrawal penalty on withdrawals made before the age of 59 1/2.
  • Employer Matching: There are no employer-matching contributions to a Roth IRA because it was created and is maintained by an individual.
  • Fees: A lot of inexpensive brokerages offer free account opening. However, mutual fund and ETF cost percentages continue to typically apply. The investor may pay commissions and other costs to the broker or advisor if they opt to create a Roth IRA through a full-service broker.
  • Investment Options: A Roth IRA may have an infinite number of investment alternatives, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, and options, depending on the brokerage where the account is maintained.
  • several pre-selected investment options to pick from, most of which are mutual funds.
  • Lack of control: Although the member owns the vested account amount, withdrawals are often not permitted until certain qualifying requirements are completed.
  • Potential for high fees: Compared to other investment accounts, like IRAs, some plans include administration fees and investment charges that are greater.
  • Early withdrawal penalty: Early withdrawal penalties of 10% from the IRS are typically applied to 401(k) withdrawals made before age 59 1/2.

Roth IRAs


  • Tax-free growth of contributions: While funds are kept in a Roth IRA, interest and capital gains are not taxed.
  • Tax-free withdrawals of principal at any time: Contributions may be withdrawn tax-free since they are made on an after-tax basis. However, if removed from a Roth IRA, interest and capital gains are taxed.
  • Tax-free withdrawals at retirement: Tax-free withdrawals are typically those made at or after the age of 59 1/2.
  • No required minimum distributions (RMDs): Holders of Roth IRAs are not subject to minimum distribution requirements at any age, in contrast to standard IRAs.


  • No tax deduction: Because Roth contributions are paid after taxes, they do not affect taxable income.
  • Income limits: According to the 2022 regulations, married people filing a combined tax return with income exceeding $214,000 and single filers with income over $144,000 are not eligible to make Roth contributions.
  • Contribution limits: Roth contributions are capped in 2022 at $6,000 for those under 50 and $7,000 for people over 50.
  • 5-year rule on withdrawals: A Roth IRA must be open for at least five years to avoid the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty in addition to the 59 1/2 age requirement.

Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA vs. Roth 401(k) vs. 401(k)

Traditional IRA contributions are made before taxes, but Roth IRA contributions are made after taxes. This is the main distinction between the two types of IRAs. Traditional IRA distributions are subject to income tax, whereas retirement withdrawals from qualified Roth IRAs are not.

The standard 401(k) vs Roth 401(k) has the same advantages and disadvantages as traditional and Roth IRAs (k). Traditional 401(k) contributions are made pre-tax, and retirement distributions are subject to income tax. Contributions to a Roth 401(k) are made after tax, and tax-free withdrawals are allowed at retirement.

Tips When Choosing How To Invest for Retirement

According to general retirement saving recommendations, people should invest in 401(k) plans with at least enough money to earn the full company match, if appropriate. In some circumstances, using an IRA in addition to a 401(k) plan might make sense (k). Age and income are just two of the variables that will affect the choice of investments and whether to make standard or Roth contributions.

When deciding how to save and invest for retirement, take into account:

  • Take advantage of a match: A match from an employer is essentially free money. It’s typically a good idea to contribute at least enough to obtain the full employer match if a budget permits.
  • Consider an IRA: Investors may take advantage of an IRA for retirement savings if a 401(k) is not offered. Some individuals utilize an IRA to extend their investment options, add a Roth option when a 401(k) doesn’t provide one, or, in some cases, maximize yearly contributions.
  • Maximize contributions when possible: Contributing up to the annual authorized amount will optimize retirement savings for individuals who are lucky enough and when the budget permits.
  • Invest for risk tolerance and time horizon: The main deciding criteria for investing are time horizon and risk tolerance (the ups and downs) (the number of years until withdrawals begin).

Bottom Line

The main distinction between a 401(k) and a Roth IRA is that the former is an account set up by an individual, whilst the latter is a benefit set up by a business for the benefit of its workers. The primary variations that persist beyond that point include income restrictions, contribution caps, and withdrawal regulations.

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