December 4, 2023

Retirement saving plans can look lots like alphabet soup—and for individuals who work within the public sector, there are spoonfuls to think about past the IRA and 401(okay). 

Individuals who work at non-profit organizations, public faculties, and different authorities entities would possibly discover 457 plans and 403(b) plans of their mixture of retirement choices. Each of those plans may help pave the trail for a secure monetary future in retirement, however they do have some key variations to grasp. 

As a result of most employers solely supply one or the opposite, chances are high you gained’t have to decide on between contributing to a 457 plan and a 403(b). However when you do—or when you’re doing all of your analysis and evaluating potential advantages packages forward of deciding on a job supply—right here’s what you’ll want to know.

The 457 plan

A 457 plan is a kind of employer-sponsored retirement account out there to some state and native authorities employees, in addition to sure nonprofit staff. There are literally—sure, extra alphabet soup—two completely different sorts of 457 plan: The 457(b) and the 457(f). 

457(b) plans are the extra frequent of the 2, and will be provided to civil servants, nonprofit staff, and different state and native authorities employees.  457(f) plans are rarer, often out there solely to high-level executives at sure non-profit organizations.

As with most different sorts of retirement plans, staff contribute to the 457 plan, and these investments are allowed to develop tax-deferred. However 457s even have just a few peculiarities that make them stand out from different retirement choices.

Professionals and cons of 457 plans

Let’s take a more in-depth take a look at the ins and outs of 457 plans.


  • Excessive contribution limits. Like different sorts of employer-sponsored retirement accounts, 457 plans supply the advantage of excessive annual contribution limits: The max is $22,500 in 2023  ($23,000 for 2024) for a 457(b). And 457(f) plans don’t have an annual contribution restrict in any respect:  Plan individuals can put as a lot of their paycheck into the account as they’d like. (That’s a part of what makes them so engaging for these well-paid executives.) There’s, nevertheless, a catch—which we’ll get to in only a minute.
  • Particular catch-up contributions could also be out there. With regards to investing, time is essential—so for these getting a begin later within the sport, the flexibility so as to add just a little additional every year can go a good distance. Most 457(b)s permit the usual catch-up contribution for these aged 50 and over, which is $7,500 in each 2023 and 2024. (That’s along with the bottom contribution restrict listed above) However some plans permit for particular, extra catch-up contributions within the final three years earlier than you attain the plan’s retirement age: As much as double the annual restrict (so, for 2023, $45,000, and $46,000 in 2024) or the traditional annual restrict plus eligible funds you can have contributed in previous years, however didn’t. In case your plan permits each the common catch-up contributions and the particular ones, you possibly can select the larger one, however you possibly can’t use each.
  • Withdrawals are extra versatile. One other particular characteristic that’s fairly exhausting to seek out in different sorts of retirement accounts: Governmental 457(b) account-holders can withdraw funds with out paying the ten% early withdrawal price as soon as they now not work for the plan-sponsoring employer, even when they’ve but to hit the no-withdrawal-penalty age—presently 59½. Nonetheless, these accounts are nonetheless topic to required minimal distributions, or RMDs, which is to say you’ll be obligated to start out withdrawing funds from the account when you attain age 72 or 73, relying in your birthday.
  • You may simply roll it over. When you depart your job and don’t need to instantly money within the account, your 457 plan will be rolled over into all kinds of different sorts of retirement accounts, together with an IRA, 403(b), 401(okay), and others. (Professional tip: Protecting all your retirement funds in only one or two accounts may help make sure you don’t depart cash on the desk or miss RMDs when you attain retirement age. Undecided when you’ve left an outdated 401(okay) behind? A service like Beagle may help you discover lacking retirement accounts—and profit from them).


  • Solely out there by means of an employer. Which is to say, not like an IRA, this isn’t an account you possibly can simply decide into by yourself. You must be employed by a company within the public sector to have entry to a 457 plan.
  • Unlikely to see an employer match. Within the non-public sector, many employers supply to match worker retirement contributions as much as a sure % of their wages—like 1% or 4%—to sweeten the deal. Nonetheless, this sort of match is sort of uncommon within the public sector, so your 457 plan will in all probability not include one.
  • Restricted funding choices. That is true of each 457 plans and 403(b)s, as we’ll see in a second. Public sector retirement accounts often solely permit traders to select from mutual funds and annuities. That construction leaves an entire lot of different choices, like alternate traded funds (ETFs) and particular person shares and bonds, on the desk—however thankfully, you possibly can at all times select to put money into these with a non-public, self-directed funding account by means of a brokerage like JP Morgan.
  • Within the case of 457(f) plans, you danger forfeit. Keep in mind that catch we promised above? Effectively, to ensure that 457(f) contributions to be tax-deferrable, they have to be topic to “substantial danger of forfeiture,” because the IRS places it. In different phrases, if the worker leaves or loses their job earlier than they’re vested within the plan, they’ll lose the cash totally. (In most different instances, you’d maintain the cash you’d contributed, however doubtlessly lose out on employer contributions when you left earlier than you have been totally vested.)

The 403(b) plan  

The 403(b) plan, typically often known as a tax-sheltered annuity or TSA plan, is a kind of retirement account designed for individuals who work at public faculties and, once more, sure non-profit staff, like those that work at church buildings or charities. Workers contribute and employers can contribute on their behalf. In some ways, they work very equally to a 401(okay)—only for the general public sector somewhat than the non-public.

Professionals and cons of the 403(b) plan

Whereas 403(b) plans are significantly easier than 457s, it’s nonetheless vital to grasp their advantages and disadvantages.


  • Even greater contribution limits. At first look, it appears like 403(b) plans have the identical annual contribution limits as 457s: $22,500 for 2023 ($23,000 for 2024), with catch-up contributions allowed for individuals who’ve celebrated their fiftieth birthday. However that’s simply the annual restrict to how a lot you, the worker, can contribute; together with contributions from an employer match, which you’re extra more likely to see with a 403(b) than a 457, this yr’s restrict goes as much as a whopping $66,000 ($69,000 in 2024).
  • Particular catch-up contributions could also be out there. They work just a little otherwise than the 457’s, although. With a 403(b), plan individuals aged 50 or over are eligible for the usual catch-up contribution—once more, $7,500 for 2023 and 2024. However when you’ve labored with the group for 15 years or longer and your plan permits it,  your general contribution restrict might completely enhance by $3,000—or extra, underneath sure circumstances.
  • Straightforward to roll over. Identical to a 457, a 403(b) plan will be rolled over into most different sorts of retirement accounts.


  • Restricted funding choices. Simply as with 457 plans, funding selections for 403(b)s are typically restricted to both annuities or mutual funds.
  • Early withdrawal penalties. As is true of most sorts of retirement accounts, with a 403(b), when you make a withdrawal earlier than age of 59½, with only a few exceptions, you’ll be topic to a ten% penalty. Exceptions to the rule embrace turning into disabled or being let go out of your job. You may additionally have the ability to take a mortgage out of your 403(b), however doing so might imply lacking out on useful funding development through the interval of the mortgage.
  • Solely out there by means of employer sponsorship. And you need to work with the correct of facility—once more, often a college, church, or different non-profit—to entry one.

457 plans vs. 403(b) plans: Key variations

That was an entire lot of data, so let’s lay out the important thing variations between 457s and 403(b)s at a look.

State and native authorities employees in addition to sure non-profit staff

Public college employees in addition to sure non-profit staff, together with some clergy and charity employees

Contribution restrict for 2023

$22,500, together with each worker and any employer contributions

$22,500 for worker contributions; as much as $66,000 together with employer contributions

Contribution restrict for 2024

$23,000, together with each worker and any employer contributions

$23.000 for worker contributions; as much as $69,000 together with employer contributions

For these aged 50 and over ($7,500 for 2023 and 2024); In some instances, particular catch-up contributions might permit individuals to contribute double the annual restrict, or contribute funds they have been eligible to, however didn’t, contribute throughout earlier years, through the three years instantly earlier than the plan’s retirement age

For these aged 50 and over ($7,500 for 2023 and 2024); In some instances, particular catch-up contributions might permit individuals who’ve been employed by the identical group for 15 years or longer to extend their annual contribution restrict by a minimum of $3,000

Doesn’t apply to withdrawals made after severance from employment, even earlier than the no-withdrawal-penalty age of 59½

Applies to most withdrawals made earlier than age of 59½, with exceptions for dying, incapacity, and severance from employment

Restricted to mutual funds and annuities

Restricted to mutual funds and annuities

Required Minimal Distributions (RMDs)

Sure, beginning at age 72 or 73, relying in your birthday

Sure, beginning at age 72 or 73, relying in your birthday

When is a 457 plan the precise selection? 

When you’re a authorities or non-profit employee who has entry to a 457 plan, it may be a useful tax-advantaged retirement financial savings car—and one that provides some particular bonus options and adaptability that may be exhausting to seek out in different retirement accounts. 

Nonetheless, 457s don’t have the best contribution limits, are seldom topic to employer matching and, in some instances, are topic to the danger of forfeiture. The excellent news is, you possibly can contribute to a 457 plan whereas additionally contributing to a different kind of retirement account, like a 401(okay) or IRA, so long as you observe the principles for all of them.

When is a 403(b) the precise selection?

When you work at a public college, church, or non-profit and you’ve got entry to a 403(b)—you guessed it—contributing to the account may very well be a sensible option to save for retirement. That’s very true when you obtain an employer match, which can make it extra possible to make the most of 403(b) plans’ greater contribution limits.

Nonetheless, remember that your funding choices will likely be extra restricted with a 403(b) than with different sorts of retirement accounts, comparable to IRAs and even sure 401(okay)s. Once more, you possibly can combine and match your retirement technique in an effort to get the perfect of some several types of funding autos.

Can you’ve gotten each a 403(b) and a 457(b)?

Whereas the reply is technically sure—there’s no clause stating you possibly can’t have entry to each a 403(b) and 457(b) on the similar time—realistically, most employers solely supply one kind of account or the opposite. When you do have entry to each sorts of accounts, you possibly can contribute to every, however should maintain the contribution limits and different guidelines in thoughts in order to keep away from operating into penalties.

TIME Stamp: 457 and 403(b) plans supply stable methods to avoid wasting for retirement

Each 457 plans and 403(b)s supply these within the public sector useful choices for saving for retirement—with the extra bonus of upper catch-up contributions underneath sure circumstances or, within the case of the 457, extra versatile withdrawals. Nonetheless, each of those accounts are solely out there to those that can entry them by means of their employer, which implies not all people can open one.

Luckily, different choices—for instance, IRAs—can be found to those that are self-employed or in any other case don’t have entry to an employer-sponsored retirement account. Generally, an entire alphabet of choices is an effective factor.

The data offered right here is created independently from the TIME editorial employees. To be taught extra, see our About web page.