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IRA vs. 401(k): Which is Better for You?

by Donna Fuscaldo Published October 29, 2012 FOXBusiness

Wiser AdvisorWhen it comes to retirement planning, you have choices when it comes to picking what savings vehicle best fits your lifestyle. While most people will simply go with the 401(k) plan offered by their employer, there are other options like the Roth IRA.

When deciding which tool will house your nest egg, experts advise taking into consideration your discipline, income and tax goals.

With a company-sponsored 401(k) plan, employees can contribute pre-tax dollars from each pay check, which lowers their taxable income at the end of the year. In some cases the employer will match a portion of the contributions, effectively giving the employee free money. When it comes time to cash out of the plan, when you reach 59 1/2, you would have to pay taxes on the distributions.

An Individual Retirement Arrangement (Roth IRA) is another retirement savings tool. The money you put this account can't be written off on taxes, but money grows tax free and you don't pay taxes on the money when you take it out as long as you are over 59 1/2 and have had the Roth IRA open for at least five years. Read more:

Retirement Planning Tip

Find out about your Social Security benefits

Social Security pays benefits that are on average equal to about 40 percent of what you earned before retirement. You should receive a Social Security Statement each year that gives you an estimate of how much your benefit will be and when you can receive it.

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What is an Annuity?

An annuity is a lump sum of money that you give to an insurance company and it accumulates over time. When you are ready, say for retirement, that accumulated money can be converted into income. Every year the interest that accumulates on an annuity grows until you need to use it, therefore it is tax-deferred money; unlike money invested in CD's which is taxed annually. Think of an annuity as an apple seed. Once you plant that apple seed it will grow into a tree. Over the years that tree will begin to bear fruit. When you retire you can use that fruit for sustenance. With an annuity you never chop down the apple tree and use it for firewood.

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