Is A 401K Enough To Retire On?

401k retirement savings

Answering the question of whether or not “401k is enough to retire” is rather dicey since it is influenced by many financial factors. However, I can assure you that it is better to plan than no plan at all, as the cost of the latter is always greater than the former. 

For those you may be wondering what a 401k retirement plan is, let’s give a brief introduction as to what it is, what it entails, its influencing factors, risks involved, and finally conclude if or not a 401k retirement plan is enough to sustain an individual after retirement. 


A 401k retirement plan is an employer-sponsored retirement scheme that allows an employee to invest a percentage of their pre-tax salary (this process is usually automated) into a retirement account. Employees have the luxury of selecting their preferred form of investment from a variety of choices such as; stock, bonds, material funds and cash.  It is a tax-advantaged and is named after a section of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. Employers can also decide to make matching contributions which would greatly increase the revenues of the employee. 

Types Of 401K 

There are basically two types of 401K plans, there are traditional and Roth and they differ primarily in how they are taxed. 


In the traditional 401k retirement plan, the employee’s contributions would reduce their income taxes for the years they remain in the program, but their withdrawals would be taxed. 

2. ROTH 401K PLAN 

In the Roth retirement plan, however, employees make contributions and their incomes are taxed, but their withdrawals are tax-free. 

Planning a 401k whether Traditional or Roth has many benefits for retirement- savings employees. It allows them to make wage deductions on a pre-tax basis, it could also be in the form of tax in other cases. In addition, all proceeds from scheme 401k are based on taxable income. 

Some Facts About The 401k Retirement Plan 

Since every investment may have its downsides, let’s look at some facts that may not be so great concerning the 401K plan; 

1. Although a 401K plan is a brilliant way to save in view of your retirement, it may not be enough to set aside a comfortable amount of funds, in part because of IRS restrictions (seeing they are limited to what an employee and employer can invest). 

2. Inflation, and tax on 401(k) allocations, undermines your savings (According to research, a 1% inflation rate could cost the retiree up to $34,406 of his benefits. If the inflation rate were to increase to 4%, it would cost more than $139,000), and the value rises t is a massive advantage to the retiree (but the latter case are typically rare). 

3. If you want to withdraw from your 401k early, you will have to pay a fine - plus taxes - on the amount, you intend to withdraw. This is because 401k accounts are closed accounts and are not accessible to retirees until the appointed time. 

Restrictions On The 401k Retirement Plan 

We have reviewed that limits are placed on how much percentage of salary is meant to contribute. For example in2021, IRS regulations limit the percentage of salary contributions to a maximum contribution of $ 19,500. For someone making more than $ 150,000 a year, investing a higher income will give him a savings rate of only 12.67%. And when a person makes more than $ 150,000, their percentage of the contribution will be less. 

The problem is that the 12% savings rate might be too low to achieve a comfortable retirement. There are also restrictions on the way in which employees can dispose of these items and that they are allowed to do so without having to pay tax. 

Given these 401Ks basics, even if you save a lot, your 401k is probably not going to be enough to retire, as you can never save too much for the future. Here are some factors that may affect this;  

Fees And Cost Consolidation 

The effect of administrative fees on 401K accounts and associated funds can be severe. These costs can be swallowed up by more than half of a person’s savings. 401k usually consists of more than twelve undisclosed amounts, such as trustees' funds, bookkeeping fees, acquisition fees, and legal fees. It is easy to become downhearted after a relapse. 

Mutual funds within 401K usually take 2% off the top. If the fund increases by 7% per annum but takes 2%, you are left with 5%. It sounds like you are earning a lot of money, but the magic of the wallet business makes part of your profit disappear because a 7% compound will bring back hundreds of thousands more than a 5% return. A 2% withdrawal amount reduces the return on investment. When you retire, a mutual fund may take up to three of your profits. 

The best options would be to invest in lower indexes. Also, look at the easy-to-use daily targets, which find their way to more than 401k programs, but check out the fees as well. 

Inflation And Taxes 

The cost of living is constantly on the rise. The effect of long-term inflation is generally underestimated. Many retired people believe that they have enough money to sustain them from their 401k accounts and that they are in good health, only to discover after an extended period of time that they would have to reduce their living expenses else they would struggle to make ends meet. 

Taxes are also a big problem. Admittedly, 401k are tax-deductible and grow tax- free. But when you retire and start withdrawing money from your 401k account, the distribution will be added to your annual income which will be taxed on you by the current income tax rate. Like inflation, that price may be higher than you expected 20 years ago. Or perhaps the nest egg you have been building on your 401k for over 20 to 30 years may not be as large as you might expect. 

According to Marguerite Cheng, the chief executive officer of Blue Ocean Global Wealth; “All tax deducted dollars, which means that for every $ 1 you save today, you will have only about 63 to 88 cents based on your tax brackets. For those earning a lot, this is a very serious matter as they are in the top tax bracket. The $1 million balance is not the $ 1 million you can spend on retirement” after taxation from the IRS.

Funds Are Not Readily Accessible 

The income of 401 (k) is actually locked in a safe that can only be opened when you reach a certain age or if you have appropriate exceptions, such as medical expenses or permanent disability. If not, you will suffer fines and early withdrawal taxes. In short, 401K money is not readily accessible. So in cases of emergency, you would not be given any consideration as you may incur a penalty and tax of over 10%. 

Other facts that could be considered are; loss of job for 3 to 6 months, change of jobs (probably with lesser earnings), and ability to cope with the yearly deductions. 


In conclusion, whether a 401K is enough to retire is dependent on several factors. At the end of the day, this may be a conversation you want to have with a financial advisor. However, since a 401K retirement plan may not be sufficient to keep you afloat long after retirement, it is essential to take precautions by building in other means of investments, having a part-time job can also be a lot helpful. 

In all, one cannot save too much for the future considering the uncertainties our world is filled with. It is better to save more money for retirement than you think you will need, with your 401k and other investment or savings vehicles!

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