Depending on your employer, you might have a different retirement savings plan. These plans share the same basic structure as 401(k)s: pretax contributions and tax-deferred earnings. The contribution limits are also the same. And the money you accumulate in one type of plan may be moved into any of the others (provided the new plan permits transfers). But these plans also have features that set them apart from 401(k)s.
Nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, religious institutions, and certain hospitals, may offer 403(b) plans. In a 403(b) your investment menu is limited to annuities – fixed or variable and in some cases equity-indexed annuities (EIAs) – or mutual funds. Your employer may choose to match your contributions, but that practice is less common than with 401(k)s. But if there is a match, you usually have immediate vesting, or the legal right to all contributions and their earnings. That differs from 401(k) plans, where it might take up to six years to fully vest.
State and local governments (and some local school districts) typically offer 457 plans, also called deferred compensation plans. Rather than belong to you, your assets are held in trust for the duration of your employment. Not all of the same rules for early withdrawal penalties and minimum required distributions that apply to 401(k)s apply to 457s. And while you can use the same guidelines for catch-up contributions as apply to the other plans, 457s have a catch-up system of their own. You can contribute to a 457 even if you have made maximum contributions to a 403(b) or 401(k).