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How To Optimize Your Retirement Investing Priorities

If you have self-employment income, consider opening an Individual 401(k). The benefits are the same as an employer-sponsored 401(k), but you contribute as both the “employer” and the “employee” and receive reduced self-employment taxes in addition to an income tax deduction.

401(k) investors who like the idea of paying tax today in favor of reduced tax bills in retirement, those who like the idea of the Roth IRA, can often choose to designate some or all of their 401(k) contribution as a Roth 401(k). Whether this is offered is up to the employer.

Priority 4: Maximize contributions SEP IRA

The SEP (Simplified Employment Pension) IRA provides an opportunity for self-employed individuals to put aside more of their income for retirement and receive a tax deduction at the same time. The contribution limit for the SEP IRA can be much higher than the one for traditional and Roth IRAs, but otherwise, the SEP IRA operates the same way from a tax perspective as the traditional IRA. The limit for investing in an SEP IRA is 25 percent of income up to a maximum that changes almost every year, though there are some nuances to that calculation.

Priority 5: Invest anything else in a taxable account

Once you've maximized all the above investment types, you've run out of tax-advantaged options. While there are other avenues for tax savings, like deferred compensation, restricted stock, and carried interest, these are likely not available to most taxpayers. You will probably need to save more than just the above in order to achieve financial independence by the time you'd like to stop working, unless you are willing and able to limit your expenses.

Frugality can go a long way in making your retirement dollar stretch, but most people envision a life without worrying about whether they can afford to do a particular activity. A life like that requires saving a healthy amount of money over time. If your tax-advantaged opportunities are complete, you can save more by investing in a taxable investment account.

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