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Retirement Planning

Features and Benefits of a 403(b)

Key benefits of a 403(b):

Traditional 403(b)

Employees of educational institutions and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations have a unique opportunity to regularly set aside money for their retirement in a tax-sheltered account. This long-term retirement account, funded through payroll deduction, is called a 403(b) tax-sheltered account, or TSA.

Although it makes sense to take advantage of a 403(b) TSA program, the tax rules governing these programs are quite complicated. To help ensure that you are reaping the maximum benefits from your TSA, you should consult with a financial professional.

Reduction of Current Federal Income Tax

Your 403(b) contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, they are excluded from your current taxable income. That means you may pay less in current federal income taxes as well as most states' income taxes.

Tax Deferred Earnings

You do not pay taxes on the earnings in your 403(b) account until you take a distribution. Withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income in the year received.

Variety of Investment Options

You can invest your 403(b) funds in fixed and variable annuities and mutual funds.

Low-Cost Loans

Some plans allow you to borrow from the funds in your account. All interest on these loans are paid back into your own account.

Please be aware that funds taken as part of a loan reduces your account balance and does not share in any investment gains or losses until loan repayments are made. If the loan is not repaid according to the terms of the loan and a default occurs, it will result in adverse tax consequences, including possible penalties.

Other important features:

No Reduction in Other Retirement Benefits

You receive the plan benefits in addition to your pension and Social Security benefits. Social Security credits are not affected by your 403(b) plan contribution.


When you receive a distribution from your 403(b) program, you may elect to roll the distribution into an IRA, another 403(b) program or the plan of a subsequent employer.

High Annual Contribution Limits

Due to the tax advantages of a TSA, the government places a dollar cap on the total amount participants may contribute to the plan each year.

  • The maximum annual contribution in 2024 if you are under age 50 is $23,000.
  • A catch-up contribution is available if you are age 50 or older by year-end; the catch-up limit is $7,500 in 2024.
  • Plan participants with 15 or more years of service with the same employer may be eligible to contribute even more. Consult with your financial professional for details.

Withdrawals Prior to Age 59 1/2

In general, there is a 10% penalty for withdrawals prior to age 59 1/2. But there are limited exceptions to this rule. Withdrawals may be made without penalty prior to age 59 1/2 due to death, disability, or if you separate from service if you are age 55 or older in the year of separation.

Mandatory Withdrawals at Age 73

You are required to start taking distributions from your account after age 73 unless you are still employed.

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