Understanding the 457b Plan vs. 401k and 403b

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • With a 457b plan, you can set aside pre-tax earnings for retirement. Explore the key benefits and differences of a 457b plan, including its advantages over other retirement plans like 401k and 403b plans.

Understanding the intricacies of a 457b plan is essential for those eligible to participate in this retirement savings plan. In this guide, we will dive deep into the world of 457b plans and uncover their advantages, risks, and differences compared to other retirement options.

What is a 457b Plan?

A 457(b) plan is an employer-sponsored, tax-deferred retirement savings account available to some state and local government employees. It works by allowing employees to divert a portion of their pay to their retirement account. This provides an immediate tax break by reducing participants’ taxable income.

There are limits on the amount that can be contributed each year, which vary depending on the type of employee. The money in this account grows over time and is not taxed until it's withdrawn during retirement.

Many public employers also offer Roth variations within their 457(b) plans, allowing employees who qualify for themto contribute after-tax dollars instead of pre-tax dollars. This means that while your take home pay will shrink now, when you retire and start taking distributions from your account, those withdrawals come with no additional taxes owed. As mentioned earlier, Roth versions require employer sponsorship. so not everyone has access to them. 

Advantages of Investing in a 457b Plan

Investing in a 457b plan has numerous advantages.

  • Contributions to a 457b are made with pre-tax dollars, which implies that federal income tax will not be levied until withdrawal.

  • Taxes on the funds can be avoided while they are kept invested, leading to substantial long-term savings.

  • Employers may match contributions up to certain limits, allowing employees to maximize their savings and grow their nest egg faster than if investing without employer matching funds.

For those over the age of 50, most governmental 457 plans offer participants the ability to make "catch-up" contributions in order to bolster their nest egg. This is a great opportunity to save more for retirement if their income had been diminished due to leaving the workforce or working fewer hours.

Unlike other retirement plans such as 401ks or IRAs, which impose an annual contribution cap based on income level, investing in a 457b plan provides unrestricted access each year with no upper limit on how much can be saved.

Employees can rest assured that the funds invested in a 457b plan are always 100% vested, as opposed to 401ks which often require individuals to remain employed for certain periods of time before becoming fully vested.

Investing in a 457b plan can provide numerous advantages, such as tax deferment and increased savings potential. Though the investment options in a 457b plan are attractive, it is essential to weigh the associated risks before committing.

How is a 457b Different than a 401k?

A 457b plan is a pre-tax savings plan provided by employers to help employees set aside funds for retirement.

It’s similar to a 401k in that it allows employees to defer taxes on their contributions until they are ready to withdraw the money at retirement age. Still, these two plans have some key differences.

The primary difference between a 457b and a 401k is the contribution limits. With a 457b plan, you can retroactively allocate money towards prior years that had no contributions. This makes it easier for those who want to save more aggressively towards their retirement goals without having to worry about hitting the annual limit set by other plans like the 401k. 

Another important distinction between these two types of plans is when funds become available for withdrawal: a 457b plan will allow early access to funds without penalty fees attached. 457b plans offer “in service distributions” which allow eligible participants over 55 years old access certain amounts of money before reaching full retirement age—a feature not offered by most 401ks.

Rather than matching every single contribution made by an employee, some employers may opt to make discretionary contributions with a 457b plan based on performance metrics and budgetary allowances throughout the year. In contrast, 401ks typically offer steady-state employer matches up to 6% of salary annually.

How is a 457b Different than a 403b?

The decision between a 403(b) and a 457(b) plan depends on your individual needs. Both plans offer tax-deferred savings options for retirement, but there are differences in the rules that may make one better than the other depending on your situation.

A 403(b) plan is available to employees of public schools, certain non-profit organizations, churches, and some hospitals. A 457(b) plan is only available to state and local government workers or employees of certain non-profit organizations.

Contributions made to a 403(b) can be up to $19,500 per year ($26,000 if you're over 50). The maximum contribution amount for a 457(b), however, is much higher at $37,000 per year ($46,000 if you're over 50). This makes the 457(b) more attractive if you need more time to save money for retirement or have higher income goals.

With both types of accounts you can choose from various investment options such as mutual funds and annuities. However, with a 403(b), your choices may be limited by what's offered by your employer while with a 457(B), you have more flexibility when it comes to selecting investments since they are not tied to an employer’s specific offerings.


In conclusion, a 457b plan is an employer-sponsored pre-tax retirement account that can offer numerous advantages for those looking to save money for their future.

Before investing, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks associated with a 457b plan. Furthermore, it is essential to comprehend the contrasts between a 457b plan and other retirement account options such as 401k and 403b plans in order to make an educated decision when deciding where to put your resources.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with HelpAdivsor.com. He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

While at HelpAdvisor, Christian has written hundreds of articles that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can find Christian’s most recent articles in our blog.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at Mike@MyHelpAdvisor.com.

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