December 6, 2023

Retirement saving plans can look rather a lot like alphabet soup—and for individuals who work within the public sector, there are spoonfuls to contemplate past the IRA and 401(okay). 

Individuals who work at non-profit organizations, public faculties, and different authorities entities would possibly discover 457 plans and 403(b) plans of their mixture of retirement choices. Each of those plans will help pave the trail for a steady monetary future in retirement, however they do have some key variations to know. 

As a result of most employers solely provide one or the opposite, likelihood is you gained’t have to decide on between contributing to a 457 plan and a 403(b). However in the event you do—or in the event you’re doing all of your analysis and evaluating potential advantages packages forward of deciding on a job provide—right here’s what that you must know.

The 457 plan

A 457 plan is a sort of employer-sponsored retirement account out there to some state and native authorities employees, in addition to sure nonprofit workers. There are literally—sure, extra alphabet soup—two completely different sorts of 457 plan: The 457(b) and the 457(f). 

457(b) plans are the extra widespread of the 2, and will be supplied to civil servants, nonprofit workers, and different state and native authorities employees.  457(f) plans are rarer, normally out there solely to high-level executives at sure non-profit organizations.

As with most different kinds of retirement plans, workers contribute to the 457 plan, and these investments are allowed to develop tax-deferred. However 457s even have just a few peculiarities that make them stand out from different retirement choices.

Professionals and cons of 457 plans

Let’s take a better take a look at the ins and outs of 457 plans.


  • Excessive contribution limits. Like different kinds of employer-sponsored retirement accounts, 457 plans provide the good thing about excessive annual contribution limits: The max is $22,500 in 2023  ($23,000 for 2024) for a 457(b). And 457(f) plans don’t have an annual contribution restrict in any respect:  Plan members can put as a lot of their paycheck into the account as they’d like. (That’s a part of what makes them so engaging for these well-paid executives.) There’s, nevertheless, a catch—which we’ll get to in only a minute.
  • Particular catch-up contributions could also be out there. With regards to investing, time is essential—so for these getting a begin later within the recreation, the flexibility so as to add a little bit further annually can go a good distance. Most 457(b)s enable the usual catch-up contribution for these aged 50 and over, which is $7,500 in each 2023 and 2024. (That’s along with the bottom contribution restrict listed above) However some plans enable for particular, further catch-up contributions within the final three years earlier than you attain the plan’s retirement age: As much as double the annual restrict (so, for 2023, $45,000, and $46,000 in 2024) or the conventional annual restrict plus eligible funds you can have contributed in previous years, however didn’t. In case your plan permits each the common catch-up contributions and the particular ones, you may select the larger one, however you may’t use each.
  • Withdrawals are extra versatile. One other particular function that’s fairly arduous to search out in different kinds of retirement accounts: Governmental 457(b) account-holders can withdraw funds with out paying the ten% early withdrawal charge as soon as they now not work for the plan-sponsoring employer, even when they’ve but to hit the no-withdrawal-penalty age—at present 59½. Nevertheless, these accounts are nonetheless topic to required minimal distributions, or RMDs, which is to say you’ll be obligated to begin withdrawing funds from the account when you attain age 72 or 73, relying in your birthday.
  • You possibly can simply roll it over. In case you go away your job and don’t wish to instantly money within the account, your 457 plan will be rolled over into all kinds of different kinds of retirement accounts, together with an IRA, 403(b), 401(okay), and others. (Professional tip: Maintaining your entire retirement funds in only one or two accounts will help make sure you don’t go away cash on the desk or miss RMDs when you attain retirement age. Unsure in the event you’ve left an outdated 401(okay) behind? A service like Beagle will help you discover lacking retirement accounts—and profit from them).


  • Solely out there via an employer. Which is to say, not like an IRA, this isn’t an account you may simply choose into by yourself. That you must be employed by a company within the public sector to have entry to a 457 plan.
  • Unlikely to see an employer match. Within the non-public sector, many employers provide to match worker retirement contributions as much as a sure p.c of their wages—like 1% or 4%—to sweeten the deal. Nevertheless, this type of match is sort of uncommon within the public sector, so your 457 plan will in all probability not include one.
  • Restricted funding choices. That is true of each 457 plans and 403(b)s, as we’ll see in a second. Public sector retirement accounts normally solely enable buyers to select from mutual funds and annuities. That construction leaves an entire lot of different choices, like change traded funds (ETFs) and particular person shares and bonds, on the desk—however thankfully, you may at all times select to put money into these with a non-public, self-directed funding account via a brokerage like JP Morgan.
  • Within the case of 457(f) plans, you danger forfeit. Keep in mind that catch we promised above? Nicely, to ensure that 457(f) contributions to be tax-deferrable, they should be topic to “substantial danger of forfeiture,” because the IRS places it. In different phrases, if the worker leaves or loses their job earlier than they’re vested within the plan, they’ll lose the cash solely. (In most different circumstances, you’d maintain the cash you’d contributed, however doubtlessly lose out on employer contributions in the event you left earlier than you had been absolutely vested.)

The 403(b) plan  

The 403(b) plan, generally also called a tax-sheltered annuity or TSA plan, is a sort of retirement account designed for individuals who work at public faculties and, once more, sure non-profit workers, like those that work at church buildings or charities. Staff contribute and employers can contribute on their behalf. In some ways, they work very equally to a 401(okay)—only for the general public sector slightly than the non-public.

Professionals and cons of the 403(b) plan

Whereas 403(b) plans are significantly simpler than 457s, it’s nonetheless vital to know their advantages and downsides.


  • Even greater contribution limits. At first look, it appears like 403(b) plans have the identical annual contribution limits as 457s: $22,500 for 2023 ($23,000 for 2024), with catch-up contributions allowed for members who’ve celebrated their fiftieth birthday. However that’s simply the annual restrict to how a lot you, the worker, can contribute; together with contributions from an employer match, which you’re extra prone to see with a 403(b) than a 457, this 12 months’s restrict goes as much as a whopping $66,000 ($69,000 in 2024).
  • Particular catch-up contributions could also be out there. They work a little bit in another way than the 457’s, although. With a 403(b), plan members aged 50 or over are eligible for the usual catch-up contribution—once more, $7,500 for 2023 and 2024. However in the event you’ve labored with the group for 15 years or longer and your plan permits it,  your general contribution restrict could completely enhance by $3,000—or extra, beneath sure circumstances.
  • Simple to roll over. Similar to a 457, a 403(b) plan will be rolled over into most different kinds of retirement accounts.


  • Restricted funding choices. Simply as with 457 plans, funding selections for 403(b)s are typically restricted to both annuities or mutual funds.
  • Early withdrawal penalties. As is true of most kinds of retirement accounts, with a 403(b), in the event you make a withdrawal earlier than age of 59½, with only a few exceptions, you’ll be topic to a ten% penalty. Exceptions to the rule embrace changing into disabled or being let go out of your job. You might also have the ability to take a mortgage out of your 403(b), however doing so could imply lacking out on invaluable funding development throughout the interval of the mortgage.
  • Solely out there via employer sponsorship. And it’s important to work with the proper of facility—once more, normally a college, church, or different non-profit—to entry one.

457 plans vs. 403(b) plans: Key variations

That was an entire lot of data, so let’s lay out the important thing variations between 457s and 403(b)s at a look.

State and native authorities employees in addition to sure non-profit workers

Public college employees in addition to sure non-profit workers, together with some clergy and charity employees

Contribution restrict for 2023

$22,500, together with each worker and any employer contributions

$22,500 for worker contributions; as much as $66,000 together with employer contributions

Contribution restrict for 2024

$23,000, together with each worker and any employer contributions

$23.000 for worker contributions; as much as $69,000 together with employer contributions

For these aged 50 and over ($7,500 for 2023 and 2024); In some circumstances, particular catch-up contributions could enable members to contribute double the annual restrict, or contribute funds they had been eligible to, however didn’t, contribute throughout earlier years, throughout the three years instantly earlier than the plan’s retirement age

For these aged 50 and over ($7,500 for 2023 and 2024); In some circumstances, particular catch-up contributions could enable members who’ve been employed by the identical group for 15 years or longer to extend their annual contribution restrict by no less than $3,000

Doesn’t apply to withdrawals made after severance from employment, even earlier than the no-withdrawal-penalty age of 59½

Applies to most withdrawals made earlier than age of 59½, with exceptions for loss of life, incapacity, and severance from employment

Restricted to mutual funds and annuities

Restricted to mutual funds and annuities

Required Minimal Distributions (RMDs)

Sure, beginning at age 72 or 73, relying in your birthday

Sure, beginning at age 72 or 73, relying in your birthday

When is a 457 plan the suitable selection? 

In case you’re a authorities or non-profit employee who has entry to a 457 plan, it may be a invaluable tax-advantaged retirement financial savings automobile—and one that gives some particular bonus options and suppleness that may be arduous to search out in different retirement accounts. 

Nonetheless, 457s don’t have the best contribution limits, are seldom topic to employer matching and, in some circumstances, are topic to the chance of forfeiture. The excellent news is, you may contribute to a 457 plan whereas additionally contributing to a different kind of retirement account, like a 401(okay) or IRA, so long as you comply with the foundations for all of them.

When is a 403(b) the suitable selection?

In case you work at a public college, church, or non-profit and you’ve got entry to a 403(b)—you guessed it—contributing to the account could possibly be a wise solution to save for retirement. That’s very true in the event you obtain an employer match, which can make it extra possible to benefit from 403(b) plans’ greater contribution limits.

Nonetheless, needless to say your funding choices can be extra restricted with a 403(b) than with different kinds of retirement accounts, equivalent to IRAs and even sure 401(okay)s. Once more, you may combine and match your retirement technique so as to get the very best of some several types of funding autos.

Can you may have each a 403(b) and a 457(b)?

Whereas the reply is technically sure—there’s no clause stating you may’t have entry to each a 403(b) and 457(b) on the similar time—realistically, most employers solely provide one kind of account or the opposite. In case you do have entry to each kinds of accounts, you may contribute to every, however should maintain the contribution limits and different guidelines in thoughts in order to keep away from operating into penalties.

TIME Stamp: 457 and 403(b) plans provide strong methods to avoid wasting for retirement

Each 457 plans and 403(b)s provide these within the public sector invaluable choices for saving for retirement—with the extra bonus of upper catch-up contributions beneath sure circumstances or, within the case of the 457, extra versatile withdrawals. Nevertheless, each of those accounts are solely out there to those that can entry them via their employer, which implies not everyone can open one.

Luckily, different choices—for instance, IRAs—can be found to those that are self-employed or in any other case don’t have entry to an employer-sponsored retirement account. Typically, an entire alphabet of choices is an efficient factor.

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