Money Purchase Plan

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on May 23, 2023

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What Is a Money Purchase Plan?

Money purchase plans are employer-sponsored retirement plans designed to help employees save for their retirement. They provide a valuable means of accumulating wealth for employees and offer tax advantages for both employees and employers.

Money purchase plans are different from defined benefit plans, which promise a specific retirement benefit based on a formula that takes into account factors such as the employee's salary history and years of service.

In a money purchase plan, the employee takes on more investment risk and does not have a guaranteed retirement benefit.

Money purchase plans can be set up as individual accounts for each employee or as pooled accounts for all employees. They are subject to certain contribution limits and distribution rules under the Internal Revenue Code.

Types of Money Purchase Plans

Types of Money Purchase Plans

Defined Contribution Plans

401(k) Plans

A 401(k) plan is a popular type of defined contribution plan offered by employers. Employees can contribute a portion of their pre-tax earnings to the plan, and employers can match a percentage of those contributions.


403(b) Plans

A 403(b) plan is similar to a 401(k) plan but is designed for employees of tax-exempt organizations, such as schools, hospitals, and religious institutions.

457 Plans

A 457 plan is a deferred compensation plan for employees of state and local governments and some non-profit organizations. It allows participants to defer a portion of their salary for retirement.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

Traditional IRA

A traditional IRA is an individual retirement account that allows individuals to contribute pre-tax income and grow their investments tax-deferred until withdrawn in retirement.

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement account where contributions are made with after-tax income, but qualified withdrawals are tax-free.

SEP IRA

A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA is a retirement plan designed for self-employed individuals and small business owners. It allows employers to contribute to their employees' retirement accounts.

SIMPLE IRA

A Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA is a retirement plan designed for small businesses with 100 or fewer employees. Employers and employees can contribute to the plan, and contributions are tax-deductible.

Features of Money Purchase Plans

Contribution Limits

Money purchase plans have specific annual contribution limits set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Tax Advantages

Contributions to money purchase plans are generally tax-deductible, and investment earnings grow tax-deferred until withdrawn in retirement.

Vesting Schedules

Vesting schedules determine when an employee has full ownership of employer contributions to their retirement account.

Investment Options

Money purchase plans offer a range of investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).

Rollovers and Transfers

Participants can roll over or transfer their money purchase plan assets to other qualified retirement accounts under certain conditions.

Loans and Hardship Withdrawals

Some money purchase plans allow participants to take loans or hardship withdrawals from their accounts, subject to specific rules and restrictions.

Features of Money Purchase Plans

Setting up a Money Purchase Plan

Plan Sponsor Responsibilities

Employers must establish and maintain money purchase plans, including selecting investment options, monitoring plan performance, and ensuring regulatory compliance.

Employee Eligibility

Employees must meet specific eligibility requirements, such as age and length of service, to participate in a money purchase plan.

Plan Administration and Recordkeeping

Employers are responsible for plan administration and recordkeeping, which includes tracking contributions, distributions, and investment performance.

Regulatory Compliance and Reporting

Money purchase plans must comply with various federal laws and regulations, such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code.

Benefits of Money Purchase Plans

For Employers

Tax Deductions

Employer contributions to money purchase plans are generally tax-deductible.

Employee Retention

Offering a money purchase plan can help employers attract and retain valuable employees.

Reduced Business Costs

Employers can reduce payroll taxes by offering a money purchase plan, as employee contributions are generally not subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes.

For Employees

Retirement Savings

Money purchase plans provide employees with a structured way to save for retirement and benefit from the power of compounding.

Employer Contributions

Many employers match a portion of employee contributions, effectively providing "free money" to help grow retirement savings.

Tax-Deferred Growth

Investment earnings in money purchase plans grow tax-deferred, allowing for potentially greater growth over time.

Potential Drawbacks and Risks

Investment Risks

Money purchase plans expose participants to market fluctuations and the risk of investment losses.

Fee Structures

Fees associated with money purchase plans can vary and may include administrative, investment, and transaction fees.

Limited Investment Options

Some money purchase plans may offer a limited selection of investment options, which can restrict diversification and potential returns.

Potential for Underfunding

If employees do not contribute enough to their money purchase plan or if investment returns are lower than expected, they may not accumulate sufficient funds for retirement.

Legislative and Regulatory Changes

Changes in legislation or regulations could impact the tax advantages or other features of money purchase plans.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Money Purchase Plans

Comparing Money Purchase Plans to Other Retirement Options

Defined Benefit Plans

Unlike money purchase plans, defined benefit plans promise a specific retirement benefit, usually based on a formula that considers factors such as salary and years of service.

Annuities

Annuities are insurance products that provide a guaranteed income stream in retirement. They can be a complementary option to money purchase plans, offering additional income security.

Target-Date Funds

Target-date funds are diversified investment portfolios that automatically adjust their asset allocation over time based on the investor's target retirement date. They can be used within a money purchase plan or as a standalone investment option.

Non-qualified Deferred Compensation Plans

Non-qualified deferred compensation plans are for high-income employees who wish to defer income beyond the limits of qualified plans, such as 401(k)s or IRAs. These plans do not offer the same tax advantages as money purchase plans.

Comparing Money Purchase Plans to Other Retirement Options

The Bottom Line

Financial planning for retirement is essential, and money purchase plans play a vital role in helping employees save for their future.

Understanding the different types of money purchase plans, their features, benefits, and potential risks can help both employers and employees make informed decisions about their retirement strategy.

Ultimately, a diversified approach that includes money purchase plans and other investment options can help ensure a comfortable and secure retirement.

Money Purchase Plan FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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