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What is the difference between a 401k and IRA?A 401k and an IRA are both tax-advantaged accounts that incentivize saving/investing for retirement. They both restrict withdrawals from the account in exchange for deferring or excluding taxes. There are Traditional and Roth options for both accounts which is a different question altogether (I have an answer here for IRAs but it is applicable to 401ks as well: Alexander Yuan's answer to Individual Retirement Account (IRA): Is a Roth IRA better than a traditional IRA?). If something is just labelled a 401k or IRA, it is assume to be a Traditional type account.The quick rundown of the differences are the following: you have more flexibility investing in an IRA, you have a higher contribution limit for a 401k, and your employer potentially matches contributions in your 401k (basically gives you free money in the account). But let's go into some more detail.401kA 401k plan is an employer sponsored retirement plan. Not all employers offer one, but many large companies do. Most offer only a Traditional 401k, but there are some companies with Roth 401k options. The employer chooses which type of account to offer and has it set up with a plan manager. There are usually specific funds available for you to invest in within the account. You usually just fill out a form to assign how much of your paycheck you would like to put into the account and how to divide it up into the different options. There are some restrictions on withdrawing the money put into this account but you get tax benefits in return. These restrictions and benefits depend on with type of contribution you make (Traditional vs Roth). The annual contribution limit is fairly high (in 2015 it is $18,000 if you are under 50 years old, $24,000 if you are over 50). The big advantage to contributing to your 401k is employer matching. Your employer may match your contribution which means as you put money into the 401k, your employer will also give you money to put into the account. For example, if your company has 100% matching up to 4% of your income and you make 100k annual salary, you can contribute 4k and your company will put in 4k. This effectively makes your annual salary 104k with 8k being paid to you through your 401k. If the company's matching was only 50%, they will put in 2k when you put in your 4k in the example above. However, the company matched amount usually vests over some period of time which means if you leave the company, you only get the amount you are vested in. For example, if your company has a vesting schedule of 4 years evenly distributed, then in the first example above with 100% matching, you would get claim to an additional 1k each year. You are also always 100% vested in your own contributions. So let's take that example and say you don't contribute anymore after the first year. If you leave after 3 years with the company, you would be entitled to 3k of the 4k match from your first year as well as your own 4k contribution plus whatever gains that 7k earned in the account.Individual Retirement Account (IRA)An IRA is an individual retirement account, meaning you will have to set it up yourself. You will need to signNow out to a broker (Charles Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, etc.) to set up an account and you decide whether you want to open a Traditional or Roth type. You manually move money into the account which has a smaller annual contribution limit ($5,500 in 2015, $6,500 if you are over 50) relative to the 401k.You get the same restrictions and tax benefits in the IRA for the same type of contribution (Traditional vs Roth), but there are income limits to making these contributions. The main benefit of using an IRA is investment flexibility: you aren't restricted to the investments made in the account. You can invest in individual stocks or mutual funds or index funds of your choice.
For someone who is self-employed, are the various retirement plan (SEP, solo-401k, SIMPLE IRA) contribution limits mutually exclusive?User-11461146149625279477 has the right call with his article in his answer - just find the updated amounts for 2015 contribution limits and that spells it out for you.
Is there a simple way to plan out a business idea?You don't need to write an official 'business plan', but you do need some sort of plan!Each part should be logical and obvious, without the need for any massive risks or blind jumps. Once you start actually building the key is to keep getting validation at each step you take. Only take the next step when it is really logical to do so.I think the best way to demonstrate what I mean is to work through an example. The following is for an app I have been thinking of building.IDEA: To create an instant micro-jobs smartphone appThe idea is to create an app that lets you outsource jobs instantly. Similar toFiverr or People-Per-Hour but where you need the job done immediately. For instance: you want the menu at a restaurant translated into English. You load up the app, photograph the menu and put it in the translation section, the first person to accept the job gets it.Step 1 - Validate the ideaAsk as many people as possible what they think of the idea, ideally in an anonymous setting.We need to be creative: for instance we could look for outsourcing websites with forums and do a poll. Or even walk the street and ask people what they think. We're looking for feedback both from the buyers and from the freelancers.We're looking for:How many people liked the idea/was the reaction lukewarm.What the buyers would use it for - maybe noone has any interest in translation, but everyone really wants a transcription service.What services the freelancers would like to provide.The amount they'd be willing to pay/be paid for the micro-jobs.Optional contact details to send them the app when it's complete.Once we've asked a few hundred people it should be pretty obvious what people think of the idea. If the responses are positive we move on to the next step.Step 2 - Validate the per-job financialsThis is simply comparing how much the buyers are willing to pay vs how much the freelancers are willing to be paid.We are comparing like-for-like. For instance how much a person will pay/be paid to transcribe a 10 minute piece of audio.If the numbers work out, we move on to the next step.Step 3 - Price up the cost of building the appNow it's time to look at actually building the app, starting with writing a specification and getting quotes. The specification needs to be as clear and obvious as possible, with plenty of diagrams and visuals. It should be for the simplest app that we can possibly release. The minimum viable product. It's worth spending a good amount of time on getting this spec perfect.Once it's ready we can put it on a few freelancing sites, such as upwork andfreelancer. We aren't necessarily looking for the best firm, we are looking for the cheapest one that we are confident will get the prototype built.The point of this prototype is to get more validation through real users. Chances are we'll re-build the whole thing with an in-house team if everything goes to plan.Once we get the quotes back, let's see if it's still worth doing. We need to add in a big margin for errors/contingencies and work out how many users we will need to cover the initial expenditure.If we need 100 users each doing 5 jobs, that is very doable. If we need 10,000 users each doing 5 jobs, then we need to really think about whether it's worth continuing.If it's definitely worth spending the money, we move on to the next step.Step 4 - Build the minimum viable productCommission the product! Again this step is worth taking time on. We need to be in regular communication with the developers to make sure that they completely understand what we want. Then at each deliverable we need to make sure they have created exactly what we want before paying them.The more input we have during the development phase, the better the final product will be.Once there is a working prototype that we are happy with, we move on to the next step.Step 5 - Get validation of the live app.We send out the prototype to all the people who registered interest during step 1.The trick here is monitor the supply and demand balance carefully. If there are too many freelancers, we will post dummy jobs to give them something to do. Likewise if there are too many buyers we will make sure we have people ready to jump on and take on the jobs. This could mean hiring freelancers by the hour to sit on the app waiting, or by relying on a group of friends who are willing to help out. As it grows we are prepared to adjust pricing when needed in favour of either the buyer or freelancer.We now ask all the users for anonymous feedback: what they liked about the app, what we could do to improve it, and most importantly whether they will continue using it.Provided people are using the app, the usership is growing and all the financials are still working out, we move on to the next step.Step 6 - Take it to the next levelBrilliant, we're now in a great place! We have a product people are using and we have clear financial viability (we're making money on each job). Time to go and raise some money to push the app over that critical mass where we no longer need to prop up either the supply or demand.This should be pretty easy, especially as we know exactly what we'll be spending the investment on (improving the product, salaries, marketing).Now we've got ourselves a salary, we can quit our jobs safely and work on our business full-time.And that's it. We now have a start-up that's well on it's way to global dominance without ever needing to take a signNow risk. I followed these basic steps to build a to start a table tennis brand (now the #1 best selling table tennis bat in the UK), a coffee shop and a comparison website for ETFs (which we sold in 2012).I hope that helps!
Can I use my IRA to purchase a condo that I plan to rent out via AIRBNB, but also stay occasionally (which is against the rules). How would they know?Check out a self directed IRA and read on the self dealing rules. Also on the annual valuation rules. Also on the cost of a fiduciary. And on involvement in management.I've had 3 clients put rentals into IRAs this way. ALL 3 have regretted it and wish they had followed my advice. A forth individual a very very good friend of mine (think best man at my wedding and sons godfather) and a very very high priced ERISA attorney also wishes he'd followed my advice. That is 4 for 4.You do realize that you can't "manage" it. Thus someone else must and they now have a fiduciary duty to report any bsignNowes in IRS rules or become liable for penalties. (that is how they would know)
If my plan is to leave my IRA/401K to my estate and only take out the minimum required when I retire, is there still benefits for a Roth IRA/401K, or should I just continue with the regular IRA/401K?There is a huge benefit to the Roth IRA here. The other 3, IRA, 401k and Roth 401k all have required Minimum Distributions that must be taken by you at age 70.5. The Roth IRA does not have a minimum distribution required (for you). Therefore if you don't need the money you can leave it all in there growing tax free without having to pull anything out.Additionally when you die and pass on your Roth IRA to an heir (non-spouse) your heir will be able to set up the Roth IRA to payout over their lifetime assuming the money in it was held for at least 5 years. The Roth will still be a tax free fund even for your heir and the yearly RMD's that they must take will also be tax free.
I recently opened a Fidelity Roth IRA and it says my account is closed and I need to submit a W-9 form. Can anyone explain how this form relates to an IRA and why I need to fill it out?Financial institutions are required to obtain tax ID numbers when opening an account, and the fact that it's an IRA doesn't exempt them from that requirement. They shouldn't have opened it without the W-9 in the first place, but apparently they did. So now they had to close it until they get the required documentation.