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A traditional 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement plan that allows employees to contribute part of their salary before taxes and defer paying tax on the contributions and earnings until they withdraw funds at retirement. In a Roth 401(k) plan, taxes on contributions are paid upfront. Employees decide how to invest their contributions among options usually chosen by their employer, and plans are governed by ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act).

A 403(b) plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan for tax-exempt organizations, public schools, and certain ministers. Employees are able to contribute part of their salary before taxes and defer paying tax on the contributions and earnings until they withdraw funds at retirement or contribution after-tax (Roth) contributions where taxes are paid up front.

To start, traditional contributions are made pre-tax, meaning you're reducing the amount of taxable income you receive for the year. Plus, retirement plan savings benefit from compounding over the course of a career, which can sizably grow your savings over time. Ultimately, the earlier you start to save in your retirement plan, the better off you'll be.

When it comes to retirement planning, there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, so how much you need to have saved depends on your own situation. Instead of thinking about your savings in terms of a dollar amount, think realistically about how many years you could afford to be retired with what you currently have saved or project to save.

Pre-Tax/Traditional: This is the elective contribution deducted per paycheck on a pre-tax basis and invested into your account. Contributions made to your account will reduce your taxable income for the year in which they are made. Assets and earnings will be taxed when you withdraw them.

Post-Tax/Roth: This is the elective contribution deducted per paycheck on an after-tax basis and invested in your account. If you meet the requirements for a qualified distribution, both the original contribution and your earnings on that amount will be paid out tax-free.

Learn more about pre-tax contributions and employee 401(k) contribution options.

An employer match refers to contributions to a plan made by an employer on an employee's behalf when the employee elects to contribute part of their paycheck (pre-tax or post tax) to their retirement plan. When talking about an employer match in a retirement plan, participants will often see the phrase "an employer match of X% up to X%." The X's can be filled with a wide variety of inputs, but for the sake of example, let's use an employer match of 50% up to 6%—a common employer matching agreement. This employer match means that for every dollar you contribute to the plan, the employer will put in fifty cents—but once the amount you contribute reaches 6% of your pay, the employer stops contributing. Another way to look at this is if you contribute 6% of your pay, the employer will make a 3% of pay contribution.

Eligibility is the requirement an employee must meet in order to participate in the retirement plan. The eligibility provisions can be found in the Summary Plan Description (SPD) or Plan Document. These requirements may include age, hours worked, and months of service.

Vesting is the amount of time it takes for an employee to attain ownership of the employer contribution (if applicable). Typically, a participant would have to be employed for a certain period of time and/or work a specified number of hours in a plan year before the employee would have rights to the employer contributions in the plan. Employer contributions may be subject to a vesting period, whereas employee contributions are always fully vested. View your Summary Plan Description (SPD), located on your employee website > Plans > Documents > Plan Documents, for specific details to your plan.

Account Information

If you need to reference an account number for any requests or to identify your account, reference your Social Security number. If you have multiple plans at Ascensus, also include the individual plan names as needed.

If you are actively employed with the company:
To update your mailing address or work email, contact your employer. To update your personal email and phone number, log into your employee website and update it under My Profile.

If you are no longer actively employed by the company:
Contact your former employer to update your contact information on record.

Account Balance is the balance of all sources within your account. The Vested Account Balance reflects the portion of your balance you fully own. The vesting schedule for the plan is defined in the plan document and only applies to employer contributions. Any deferral you contribute to the account is always 100% vested. To learn more, refer to your plan's Summary Plan Description located on your employee website > Plans > Documents > Plan Documents.

Plan fees vary and are generally outlined in your Participant Fee Disclosure. Log into your employee website and navigate to Plans > Documents > Plan Documents > Participant Fee Disclosure.

Account transactions are listed on your employee website. Upon login, navigate to Plans > Transactions > Activity.

Statements and plan documents are available on your employee website. Log into your employee website and navigate to Plans > Documents to access plans documents or Plans > Statements to generate a statement.

If your plan allows online updates, beneficiaries can be added/updated online via your employee website. Navigate to Plans > Beneficiaries and complete the necessary information or contact your employer if you do not have the online feature.

Upon the death of a participant, an individual may reach out to the employer with the death certificate to begin the process of distributing the account to the beneficiaries. The employer will provide additional forms for beneficiaries to complete, if necessary.

If you received a distribution from your retirement plan in the prior year, Ascensus will mail you a Form 1099-R, postmarked no later than January 31 via USPS mail. The Form 1099-R may also be posted on your employee website after this date under Plans > Statements > Tax Statements. If you did not take a distribution, you will not receive a Form 1099-R.


The IRS sets annual limits that apply specifically to the amount employees, employers, or a combination of both can be put into an employee's account. Refer to the Annual COLA Limits chart to review the annual limit for elective deferrals you can contribute to your plan.

If your plan permits you to change your savings rate online, you can update your savings rate on your employee website by navigating to Plans > Deferrals. Otherwise contact your employer to update your savings rate.

If your plan allows for you to change your savings rate online, when you update your savings rate, Ascensus will notify your employer of the change via email. Please note that it may take 1-2 payroll cycles to reflect depending on your company's payroll processing.

Contributions are remitted to the plan after payroll is processed from your employer. In most cases, your contributions will display within a few days of your payroll cycle, but can take up to two weeks in some cases.

You cannot contribute personal funds from a personal bank account to the plan. All contributions must come in the form of a payroll contribution deduction or rollover from another qualified plan.

Yes, you can contribute to a 401(k) account and an IRA at the same time--although you may not be eligible for tax-advantaged contributions in both accounts at the same time, and there are specific contribution maximums for both. Check with your tax advisor on whether or not you are eligible to make a tax-deductible IRA contribution while contributing to a 401(k) plan.

There are two options available to initiate the rollover contribution. You can download the rollover contribution form from the employee website to complete or you can ask your current employer to initiate the rollover request on their plan website. To learn more about rolling money over, check out Rollover Assets Overview.

Yes, Ascensus accepts wire transfers for Rollover Contributions. You are responsible for ensuring the wire provider includes the Ascensus Plan Name, six-digit Plan ID, and your name in the data to ensure the funds match and allow for processing as soon as possible.

If your plan offers the Automatic Enrollment feature, you received notification to opt out of the plan to defer the automatic enrollment in the plan. If a contribution was deducted from your paycheck, please refer to your employer to review. If you wish to suspend deductions, you must complete enrollment to opt out of the plan.

If you over-contributed to two different plans, it's important to work with the employer of the plan you wish to remove the excess contributions from. The employer will work with you to correct the excess contribution.

Distributions and Loans

Distribution options will vary under your plan's provisions. If permitted, some distributions will vary depending on age, plan rules, and money types. If your plan permits, a loan or in-service may be available. Rollover contributions that are eligible for distribution may also be available in some plans. To see your specific plan rules and options, log into your employee website and review your Summary Plan Description (SPD) located under Plans > Documents > Plan Documents.

If your plan permits loans, you can request a loan online via your employee website. Navigate to Plans > Distributions > Loans > Model a Loan. Follow the online prompts to complete the request and submit.

If you take a distribution as a cash payout, then the taxable withdrawal amount is subject to federal withholding and applicable state income tax withholding. Some exceptions may apply. If your distribution is a direct rollover to another qualified plan, the withdrawal amount is not subject to tax withholdings. Note: If you have Roth contributions, earnings may be subject to tax withholding. See your tax advisor for more information.

Please allow 5-10 business days for processing of withdrawals. Once the request is processed, you will see the fund withdrawal from your account via the employee website. An email confirmation will be sent once the withdrawal is complete.

Expedited delivery options vary by plan. If available, when requesting a distribution or loan on the employee website, you may select to add expedited delivery option. Once the withdrawal is submitted and in process, you can no longer add the option to the request.

Once your employer updates your status to Terminated, you can request a distribution or rollover one of two ways. The preferred method is to request a distribution online via your employee website by navigating to Plans > Distributions > Withdrawals. Alternatively, if it's required by your plan, you can request a Distribution Form from your employer or Ascensus Participant Services to complete and return as instructed.

If you have an outstanding loan balance and take a cash distribution, the outstanding loan amount and accrued interest will be treated as a taxable distribution for the tax year in which the distribution takes place. Mandatory income tax withholding for the outstanding loan amount will be added to the withholding total for the cash amount being taken. If you take a rollover distribution, when your Form 1099-R is issued, you will report the outstanding loan balance that is taxable as income on your personal tax filing. All taxes due for the outstanding loan balance will be due when taxes are filed.

If you are not eligible for a loan, your account balance may not meet the plan's minimum loan value or if you have existing loan balances, you may already be at the maximum number of loans allowed by the plan. In addition, your employer has the discretion to deny a loan request, and some plans may not allow for loans.

The IRS sets limits to the amounts available to borrow from a retirement plan. In general, you can borrow the lesser of 50% of your vested account balance or $50,000 minus your highest outstanding loan balance during a rolling 12-month period, or as determined by your plan.

Loan withdrawals are issued in the form of a check and mailed to your address on record.

Most loans will be considered a personal loan. If you are requesting the loan for the purchase of your primary residence, you must provide supporting documentation to your employer to approve.

Loan repayments occur via payroll deductions generally, while some plans may allow repayments via ACH.

Yes, you may always pay off your loan in full at any time, however partial repayment or paying extra will not be accepted. To complete a loan payoff, you can log into your employee website and navigate to Plans > Distributions > Loans and choose the option to payoff the existing loan to calculate the payoff amount. If you wish to increase your payment amount to speed up the term of the loan, you may send in a request for Ascensus to recalculate an amortization schedule for your loan.

To complete a loan payoff, log into your employee website and navigate to Plans > Distributions > Loans and choose the option to payoff the existing loan to calculate the payoff amount. Then send a personal check for the payoff amount and a completed Loan Payoff Transmittal Form to Ascensus within 10 days.

When you leave your company, you have two options: payoff the loan prior to it being deemed a distribution due to non-payment or allow the loan to be deemed. When the loan is deemed a distribution, it is treated as a taxable distribution and you will need to report it as income when filing your personal taxes. Federal and applicable state incomes taxes and penalties will apply. To review your situation in greater detail, please contact your participant services team.


Determining how to invest in your retirement plan is a personal choice and depends on a variety of factors such as age, tolerance to financial risk, income level, etc. Consult with a financial professional for advice on how you should invest.

You can change your investment allocations on the employee website by navigating to Shortcuts > Manage Investments > Explore My Options. The individual investment options within your plan are available based on your plan's product and selection and you are not able to add other investment funds to your line up.

Login and Enrollment

Once you have met the eligibility requirements set out by your plan to participate in the plan, you may receive an email with enrollment instructions or your employer may provide you the necessary information to get started. If you are eligible to participate, but you have not accessed your account online to complete enrollment, please contact your employer.

If you have forgotten your username, you can retrieve it online from your login page. Simply click 'Forgot Username'. You may also be able to retrieve your password on the login page with 'Forgot Password' if you have established your security questions. If you need additional assistance, contact your participant services team.

Your account gets locked after too many unsuccessful login attempts. You can reset your password by clicking the 'Forgot Password' link on the login page if you have established your security questions.

You will continue to be able to access your account online as normal. You can leave the funds in the plan if you choose to, or can take a distribution, but may be subject to the plan's force out provisions.

The content is intended for general information and educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. The content may not apply to all individuals, situations, or circumstances, and may vary depending on the context and the source. The reader is responsible for verifying the accuracy, validity, and applicability of the content before taking any action based on it. The author and the publisher of this document disclaim any liability or responsibility for any errors, omissions, or consequences arising from the use or misuse of the content.