Let’s talk retirement.
Until just this past year, hubs and I had saved absolutely nothing toward retirement. And, even this past year, we had just started saving $100/month (only in the months where we had an extra $100 to spare). In April we opened our very first Roth IRA for 2014 with a whopping $1,000 investment. That’s it. That’s our full retirement.
I’ve had in the back of my mind that I would start more aggressive retirement contributions after we’re completely consumer debt-free (the only thing left is the car!). But now that I’ve landed a full time job things are shaking up a little.
One maybe odd thing about this job is that they require mandatory retirement contributions. I’ve never heard of that before (but this is my first full-time job, so maybe it’s more common than I think???). Also, there are two separate retirement options. At first I mistakenly thought I could switch between the two, but that was inaccurate. After reading more (and speaking with HR), I’ve learned that once I select a plan – that’s it. There’s no changing the plan. Ever. For the entire duration of my career at the university, I am locked into the retirement plan (note: I can still change investments within the plan, see more below).
The big difference is that one plan is a defined benefit plan, whereas the other is a defined contribution plan. The defined benefit plan has a higher mandatory contribution and match (currently 11.48%, compared to 7% for the defined contribution plan), but it scares me that someone else is entirely in control of the investment. Plus, the defined benefit plan pay-out isn’t based solely on the amount contributed (like the defined contribution plan), it’s based on years of service, average monthly salary, and an actuarial formula.
In contrast, the defined contribution plan benefits are based solely on the amount I’ve contributed and how the investment performs across time. It allows me to select the investment company and investment allocations myself. So even though the match is a smaller percentage, I may be able to make it up with interest and growth across time (and benefit pay-outs aren’t contingent upon years of service, average salary, etc.).
There are lots of other factors to consider as well (e.g., the defined benefit plan offers health care subsidies after retirement and better long-term disability than the defined contribution plan). It kind of sounds, to me, like the defined benefit plan is similar to a pension….only it’s not free money from the employer. It’s money that has been paid-in by the employee (and matched by employer) all throughout the employee’s career. When I googled “defined benefit versus defined contribution” everyone says to participate in the defined benefit plan, at a minimum, and to add the defined contribution plan if possible, too. But I think this is different because the websites I looked at were assuming that the defined benefit plan was paid in full by the employer (not by employee contributions). Also, at my job it is not possible to participate in both. It’s an either/or (and no moving between them).
I’m leaning toward the defined contribution plan simply because the peace of mind of being in control of MY money instead of relying on someone else to be in control (also, I don’t like that the percentage of contributions in the defined benefit plan varies and that vesting doesn’t apply until termination of employment).
Reader thoughts or opinions? For anyone who would like to see the fine print, I’ve attached a retirement comparison chart I received. Thanks!!!
If you had the option, would you select a defined benefit plan (similar to a pension, but with mandatory employee contributions) or a defined contribution plan (just like a regular 401(k), with a 7% company match)? Why?