These other accounts can offer some substantial advantages over workplace retirement plans and are often a better option for retirement savers.
1. A health savings account
A 401(k) allows you to make pre-tax contributions, but when money is withdrawn, you pay taxes on the funds you take out. HSAs, on the other hand, offer pre-tax contributions. And if you take the money out for qualifying healthcare expenses, the withdrawal isn't taxed. Only HSAs offer tax breaks at both the contribution and distribution steps.
Of course, this benefit applies only if you're withdrawing money for qualifying medical services. But since medical care is one of the biggest expenses for most retirees, there's a very good chance you'll be able to use your entire HSA account to cover eligible care costs. And, if you can't do that, you can take the money out for any reason you'd like after age 65 and will be taxed at your ordinary rate just like you would for 401(k) distributions.
HSAs have much lower contribution limits than 401(k) accounts, and you're eligible for them only if you have a qualifying high-deductible health savings plan. Still, once you've earned your employer match, this is generally a far better account to put additional retirement funds into than your 401(k).
2. A Roth IRA
Roth IRAs provide a different type of tax break than a 401(k). While the tax savings comes in the year you make the 401(k) contribution, Roth IRA contributions are made with after-tax dollars. However, with a Roth IRA, you get to take tax-free withdrawals.
Roth IRA accounts can be a better option than a 401(k) because many people will see higher tax rates later in life than when they are working. In this case, deferring the tax savings makes sense. Roth IRA distributions also don't count when the IRS determines if your income is high enough that you end up owing taxes on Social Security benefits.
Not only do Roth IRAs offer the chance for more tax savings in your later years, but you are also exempt from Required Minimum Distributions, which are mandatory for 401(k) accounts after age 72.
And you have a wider choice of investments in a Roth IRA than with most 401(k) accounts. You can open a Roth IRA with the financial firm of your choosing and invest in any assets they'll allow. With a 401(k), you usually have a limited range of investments. While you may have a choice of a few different index funds tracking financial indexes, some 401(k)s limit you to expensive mutual funds or target date funds that charge high management fees.
3. A traditional IRA
Finally, a traditional IRA can provide the same type of tax savings as a 401(k), albeit with a lower contribution limit. And it is subject to RMD rules just as a 401(k) is. But, like a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA gives you more investing flexibility.
If you want to pick from a wider range of investments than you could in a 401(k) -- including buying individual stocks -- a traditional IRA could be the best account for you.
Each of these accounts should be considered as a place for your investment dollars to go as soon as you've maxed out your 401(k) employer match, as they all offer perks a 401(k) simply can't provide.