July 23


Retirement Plans 101: The Most Common Type of Fund Offered by Employers

By Harrison O'Reill

July 23, 2023

Picture this: You’re sitting at your desk, daydreaming about retirement. But do you know which retirement plan your employer offers? Dive into Retirement Plans 101 and demystify the most common type of fund offered by employers.

Employer-sponsored retirement plans are a popular way for employees to save for their golden years. These plans offer many benefits, including tax advantages, employer-matching contributions, and a variety of investment options.

Commonly Available Funds in Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

Defined contribution plans are a popular retirement savings vehicle for employees, offering tax advantages, employer matching, and a range of investment options. However, individuals should be aware of the contribution limits, investment risks, and fees associated with these plans.

Defined Contribution Plans

Employer-sponsored retirement plans typically come in two types: defined contribution plans and defined benefit plans. Defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans, are the most commonly available funds in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

These plans allow employees to contribute a portion of their salary on a pre-tax or after-tax basis, and the employer may match a portion of the employee’s contribution.

Contribution Limits

Defined contribution plans have contribution limits set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year. In 2023, the contribution limit for 401(k) plans is $22,500 for individuals under 50 years old and $27,000 for individuals 50 years or older. For 403(b) plans, the contribution limit is the same as for 401(k) plans.

Catch-Up Contributions

Individuals who are 50 years or older can make catch-up contributions to their defined contribution plans. In 2023, the catch-up contribution limit for 401(k) plans is $6,500, and for 403(b) plans, it is $6,000.

Required Minimum Distributions

Defined contribution plans require individuals to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) by April 1st of the year following the year they turn 72. RMDs are calculated based on the individual’s account balance and life expectancy.

Employer Match

Employers may offer a matching contribution to employees’ defined contribution plans. The employer match can be a percentage of the employee’s contribution up to a certain limit.

Investment Risks

Investment gains or losses in defined contribution plans are borne by the employee, not the employer. Employees are responsible for managing their investment options and should be aware of the risks involved.


Defined contribution plans may have fees associated with them, such as administrative fees and investment fees. Employees should be aware of the fees and understand how they affect their retirement savings.


In conclusion, employer-sponsored retirement plans offer a range of investment options to their employees. The most common type of fund available through these plans is the target-date fund, which is designed to adjust its asset allocation as the employee approaches retirement age.

Other funds commonly available include index funds, which track a specific market index, and actively managed funds, which are managed by a professional fund manager. It is important for employees to carefully consider their investment options and choose a fund that aligns with their investment goals and risk tolerance.

Overall, employer-sponsored retirement plans provide a valuable opportunity for employees to save for their retirement. By taking advantage of these plans and choosing the right investment options, employees can ensure a secure financial future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about this topic.

What is a 401(k) plan, and what types of funds are available through it?

A 401(k) plan is a popular employer-sponsored retirement plan that allows employees to save for retirement through pre-tax contributions.

These plans typically offer a range of investment options, including mutual funds, index funds, target-date funds, and sometimes even individual stocks or bonds. The specific funds available can vary depending on the employer’s plan, but they are designed to provide diversification and growth potential for retirement savings.

Can you explain what mutual funds are and why they are commonly offered in employer-sponsored retirement plans?

Mutual funds are investment vehicles that pool money from multiple investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities.

They are often offered in employer-sponsored retirement plans because they provide easy access to a broad range of investment options.

Mutual funds are professionally managed, which means the fund manager makes investment decisions on behalf of the investors, making it a convenient choice for employees who may not have the time or expertise to manage their investments individually.

What are index funds, and why are they popular in retirement plans?

Index funds are a type of mutual fund that aims to replicate the performance of a specific market index, such as the S&P 500. These funds invest in a diversified portfolio of securities that mirror the composition of the index they track.

Index funds are popular in retirement plans due to their low costs and the potential for consistent returns over the long term. They are passively managed, meaning they aim to match the performance of the index rather than actively selecting investments, which helps keep expenses lower compared to actively managed funds.

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