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I am newbie and I need help setting up my 401k. Basically, I just want to avail my employer's maximum match, and 5% is the minimum needed to reach it. But I'm not sure if I am doing it right. Here's the screenshot of my current setting:

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  • It would appear that you are indeed setting up your account to contribute 5% of your salary. You are setting it up for a traditional 401(k), right? (as opposed to a Roth) – Nosrac Jul 27 '17 at 11:36
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    Does your employer employ an HR professional whose job is to explain benefits and systems to staff? If there is any concern they are in a better position to confirm your status in the plan than a stranger on the Internet. – user662852 Jul 27 '17 at 11:42
  • Are you simply concerned about getting the entire match, or do you have a question about the pre-tax/post-tax slider? – Ben Miller Jul 27 '17 at 11:56
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    This is a UI question, not a financial question. – chepner Jul 27 '17 at 13:25
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Based on the numbers on the screen, it looks like your income is in the range of $9,325 to $37,950 per year. This puts you in the 15% tax bracket. I personally would recommend you move the slider all the way to the right and put your entire contribution into the 401K Roth (so you'll have 0% pre tax and 100% post tax.) The reasoning here is that you'll pay the 15% tax now which is on the low side, but you'll never pay tax on the money's growth for the rest of your life, including when you take it out at retirement. If you do this your take home will be approximately $9 less per paycheck (or a little higher depending on your state income tax).

Note that the company match will go into a traditional 401K so you'll likely see two separate accounts on your 401K statements.

The choice to go with traditional vs roth 401k is complicated and there are many variables. As a rule of thumb, the lower your current tax rate, the more likely you should be to lean towards the roth. Some exceptions might be if you are close to retirement age and you don't have much saved for retirement, or if you live in a state with a high income tax rate and you don't think you'll still live there when you retire, or if you are living paycheck to paycheck and the slight difference in take home pay would make a difference to you.

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    Should also mention some of the other ROTH benefits. To me, important ones are no RMDs when you retire, and the ability to withdraw your contributions without tax penalty if they've been in the account for at least 5 years. – davmp Jul 27 '17 at 22:24
  • @davmp - good points! – TTT Jul 27 '17 at 22:46
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I've never used your employer's website before, but it looks right to me. You have chosen to contribute 5% of your salary to your 401(k), which should give you the full employer match.

If you are still unsure, you can ask your HR department.

If there is anything else that you are confused about, feel free to ask another question.

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Just be careful about the wording of the company matching. Many places will have matching along the lines up "We'll match 50% of your contributions, up to 10% of your salary." So in order to get 5% from your employer you need to put in 10% of your salary.

If they just say something like "We match up to 5% of your salary" It could mean you put in 5%, they give you 5%. Or it could mean what I have above.

EDIT: fixed wording

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Supposedly your employer will match 5% of your salary. That's 5% from January or your start date. If that was some time ago, you want to max as much as you can to catch up and capture all that you're entitled to. Once you've caught up, throttle it back to 5%. Don't average it out to the end of the year, you might change jobs!

They are also letting you blend between a standard and Roth 401K. Research this yourself, but I think for your age and tax bracket, there will be one very correct answer (probably Roth). Go all-in with that. That blending feature is silly, you don't want two 401K accounts if it's not necessary. Not least, two maintenance fees.

I did not listen to this advice either lol, but if you are young, put every dollar you possibly can into a 401k, especially if it is Roth. If I had it to do again, I would eat ramen and live in my car if I had to. Every dollar you deposit at age 25 could turn into $30 or more by age 75. Your salary will go up in those years, but not by 30x. Money a young person puts into a Roth is the highest salary he will ever make in his life, by far.

And never take money out of a 401k no matter how dire your straits. A 401k is a trust fund, and nobody can touch it. Even if you are sued, even if you are forced into bankruptcy, the 401K glides above all, untouchable and secure. Creditors know this and will often bully you into voluntarily cashing out your 401K. This is a con job, they have no right to the money.

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