On my first day at my first job out of college, I was given a big packet of information about my benefits, including health insurance and retirement. I’d read about the 401k beforehand, but my packet instead had information on a 403b retirement plan. I was confused – what is a 403b, what’s the difference, and why did I get a 403b instead of a 401k?
A 403b is a tax-deferred retirement plan that is very similar to a 401k. That is, it allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars out of your paycheck to save for retirement – up to $16,500 per year, and for some people, the limit may be higher.
The 403b is administered by a financial management company chosen by your employer (or one of several they’ll allow you to choose from) and you select mutual funds and annuities to invest your money.
Difference between 401k and 403b
The basic difference is that a 403b is used by nonprofit companies, religious groups, school districts, and governmental organizations. The law allows these organizations to be exempt from certain administrative processes that apply to 401k plans. In other words, administrative costs for a 403b are lower. This allows organizations with very small budgets to help their employees save for retirement.